Takita Atkins is a mother of two and an employee for the well-known company, Walgreens. She works a grueling schedule, commuting two hours round trip for work every day. Atkins began experiencing severe stomach pains and could not afford to go see a doctor for these issues, nor could she afford to miss any days of work. The mother of two made the choice to fight through her pains because her family would suffer financially if she took time off from her job. Atkins is one of many who believes that low-income wage rates should be increased so families like hers do not have to sacrifice in order to make ends meet. (NewBeginnings). Minimum wage is something almost every working class citizen in America is familiar with. But where did the minimum pay rate originate?
In the 1930’s, the federal government ratified the Fair Labor Standards Act, enforcing a minimum rate which employers must pay their workers in order to avoid abuse of labor by employers. The first minimum wage amount was set at $0.25 an hour. Throughout the years minimum wage has seen many rate increases. Some would say 1968 is the year that rates were at their peak when compared to inflation-adjusted buying power. The set rate was $1.60 an hour, which roughly translates to $10.70 when compared to today’s standards (Hiltzik). The last increase for wages came about in 2009, which has set the current federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. Although $7.25 is the set federal rate, there are a few states that choose to operate with higher wage standards (MinimumWage).
Some would argue that the current minimum wage needs to see an increase. Citizens who believe wages should be raised make points that the current rate is too low to support families and that raising wages could potentially help the economy grow in accordance to new buying power abilities (MinimumWage). Others would argue the opposite; making claims that an increase in wages can harm our economy. Those against raising wages bring up the point that an increase in pay rates could cause companies to cut employee hours, and can even cause a decrease in job availability (WageHikes). However, there is a third viewpoint that many Americans are getting on board with. Some are declaring that each individual state should have it’s own personal federal mandated wage due to the fact that no two states operate on the same economic level (Sewell and Kessler).
Those who are in favor of raising the minimum wage claim that the current set rate makes it nearly impossible for the average family to meet the basic standards of living even when a household has two full time minimum wage incomes. A person working a full-time minimum wage job at the federal standard would make $15,080 a year. Many families struggle to get by financially at this rate (MinimumWage). David Dayen, a writer for Los Angeles Times, states, “It’s not hard to understand what workers need. The fact that so many can only afford to shop at severely discounted stores indicates that they don’t make enough money.” In 2012, the fight for $15 campaign began in protest as an attempt to get congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour so that the average American family can bring home a living wage. Supporters state that raising wages will not only make life more manageable for lower class Americans, but that it’s possible that the pay increase could also help boost the economy. When people make more money they have the ability to spend more, and with increased spending around the U.S. it could potentially help the economy flourish (MinimumWage).
Those who oppose raising the minimum wage point out that raising wages may have a negative impact on the economy, specifically for those who already live below or right at the poverty line. Rising wages throughout the years have already caused many companies to make employment changes in order to adapt and keep profits up. Companies and corporations have cut back on hours that an employee is allowed to work and on the number of laborers they employ in attempts to lessen payouts. Automated machines are being installed to replace certain jobs altogether so that employers don’t have to pay anyone for particular positions. Those who are against raising the minimum wage fear that pushing the wage up to $15 an hour will cause companies to continue making cuts and job opportunities will become even harder for American citizens to find (WageHikes). The National Bureau of Economic Research teamed up with The University of Washington to conduct a study on the impact of increasing wages. One round of studies showed that when wages were set at $13 an hour there was an increase of 3% in the average wage made by workers. However, the increase in money paid out by employers caused them to have a 9% cutback on hours for their workers and this ultimately resulted in an overall wage drop of 6% (SeattleWins).
Although there are people who believe that the minimum wage should remain at it’s current level as well as those who maintain that it should be increased, there are also those who think the federal government should mandate different minimum wages for each individual state. Every state within the U.S. operates on a different economic level, and when comparing certain places around the U.S. such as New York, Alabama or Washington, there is a vast difference in the cost of living (Sewell and Kessler). Employers in states that consist mostly of rural communities cannot afford to pay out the same wages as primarily urban ones like New York that have many larger profit cities. Forcing rural states to pay their workers the same as a state that operates on a higher economic level could cause many businesses to go under which in turn would increase the unemployment rate in that area (SeattleWins). Terri Sewell and Jim Kessler, writers from Wall Street Journal, state, “The idea that Spokane, Manhattan and Selma should share the same minimum wage is nonsensical and unfair to low-wage workers everywhere.” Those who believe varying wages should be set per state claim that, operating on that system can give Americans all over the country a fair shot at having the same living opportunities as their neighboring state (Sewell and Kessler).
Although many states have made the choice to set their wages higher than that of the federal standard, the federal minimum wage has not seen an increase in the past 9 years. Proposals have been made in recent years in an attempt to move lawmakers to increase wages but nothing has been legally finalized at present (MinimumWage). Protestors in the Fight for $15 movement continue to push for their cause in hopes that some day they will see a change. Those opposed to the change attempt to educate people about the dangers of drastic wage hikes (SeattleWins). Regardless of what side you look at the idea of raising wages from, it’s no secret that the country is not the same as it once was and a balance is needed to find a happy medium for all (Sewell and Kessler).
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