The minimum wage in 2014 was 24 percent below its 1968 level despite the fact that U.S. productivity more than doubled over that period and low-wage workers now have much more experience and education than they did back then. Now is the time to address this historic weakness in the minimum wage by raising it and lifting the earnings of low-wage workers.
Across the country, there is overwhelming momentum in favor of raising wages for our nation’s lowest-wage workers. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, as well as 21 cities and counties, set their minimum wages above the inadequate federal rate of $7.25. The Fight for $15 campaign has galvanized workers across the country to demand the kind of living wages that they are entitled to receive. As a result of their actions, cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have raised their minimum wages to $15, and some of the nation’s largest employers have raised wages even in the absence of federal action.
On Election Day in November 2014, in Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, and Nebraska, voters by very wide margins approved ballot initiatives to raise their state minimum wages. And a national poll released in January 2015 showed that 75 percent of Americans—representing all demographics—support raising the federal minimum wage to over $12 per hour.2 These facts demonstrate that a substantial increase in the minimum wage is needed and enjoys overwhelming support across political lines. The Raise the Wage Act measures proposed by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Robert “Bobby” C. Scott will take important and long-overdue steps to address the national crises of wage stagnation and income inequality.