Demonstrations mark third year of no minimum wage hike

Workers are rallying, picketing and marching all over the country today, the day that marks three years since there has been no increase in the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

As the prices of every-day necessities continue to rise, whether it be the prices of eggs or milk on the one hand or health care and college tuition on the other, a minimum-wage worker who puts in 40 hours per week barely takes home $15,000 a year.

The average CEO of a Fortune 500 company earns more than twice that in a single day.

According to the National Employment Law Project there is not a single state in the nation where a full-time minimum-wage worker could afford a two-bedroom apartment. The NELP has an online petition it is urging everyone to sign.

The rallies across the country today make the point that this has to change.

“The need for a minimum wage hike is a no-brainer,” said Dean Baker, chief economist at the Center for Economic Progress. “The counter-argument against raising the minimum wage is that it would actually hurt the people we are trying to help by reducing employment. There is little basis for this claim.”

Baker noted in an article in the Huffington Post yesterday that while a 20 percent hike in the minimum wage might result in a typical low-wage worker putting in 2 percent fewer hours in a year it would net out to an increase in pay of 18 percent, “a deal most workers would likely consider pretty good.”

The most compelling argument he makes, however, relates to worker productivity: which he notes has increased by more than 120 percent since the late 1960’s. “If the minimum wage had kept step with productivity growth and inflation,” he said, “it would be over $20 an hour today.”

The problem then is that the benefits reaped from the growth in productivity have not been shared with the people whose productivity has increased so much – the workers. The benefits of the growth in productivity have gone instead to the top at the expense of the majority.

“A higher minimum wage is an important step toward reversing this,” wrote Baker. “It should not be too much to expect that workers should get at least as much as they did 45 years ago, and perhaps some dividend to allow them to share in the benefits of economic growth over this period. A minimum wage of $10 an hour would be a step in the right direction.”

Photo: In May, Give Missourians A Raise and Missourians for Responsible Lending delivered over 350,000 registered voters’ signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City, Mo., effectively qualifying a state ballot initiative to raise Missouri’s state minimum wage. Tony Pecinovsky/PW



John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York. Along with being labor editor, Wojcik is a co-editor of