Is a federal $15 minimum wage virtually a done deal?
Amazon.com, Costco and Target have all raised the minimum wage they pay hourly workers to $15, and the reality is that many, most or even all retailers will be doing the same in the near future despite doing business in a labor market where millions of Americans are out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While a generous labor pool typically favors employers, a new appreciation for the work done by frontline associates may bring about wage changes long championed by worker advocates. If that doesn’t do it, the upcoming Presidential election may do the trick.
The federal minimum wage has stood at $7.25 an hour since July 2009 even as the cost of living has continued to increase. Twenty-one states began the year with higher minimum wages than in 2019. Washington at $13.50 an hour has the highest minimum. Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, some with no mandated minimum, match the federal standard.
There appears to be popular support for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour with proponents arguing it will help lift hundreds of thousands out of poverty. Opponents say it will cost jobs.
A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 67 percent support raising the minimum wage to $15. Democrats and independents who vote with the party were more in favor, with 86 percent supporting it. Forty-three percent of Republicans and those who lean to the conservative side also support more than doubling the current federal rate.
The public’s view of frontline workers appears to have become more favorable after seeing what low wage earners have gone through during the pandemic. The United Food and Commercial Workers union claims that 238 of its members lost their lives in the first 100 days after the virus hit the U.S.
Recent polls showing voters turning away from President Trump and towards former VP Joe Biden could also have implications for the federal minimum wage. Mr. Biden supports the $15 minimum.
Speaking last week in Dunsmore, PA, Mr. Biden cited displays of appreciation from citizens in cities and towns across the nation coming out to clap for frontline workers during the crisis. “It’s time we not only clap for them, it’s time we pay them,” he said.
- State Minimum Wages | 2020 Minimum Wage by State – National Conference of State Legislatures
- Minimum Wage by State and 2020 Increases – Paycor
- Two-thirds of Americans favor raising federal minimum wage to $15 an hour – Pew Research Center
- America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Confirms Growing COVID-19 Impact on Frontline Workers – United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
- With pandemic and presidential race, $15 minimum wage could get another push – CNBC
- Joe Biden Speech Transcript on Economic Recovery Plan July 9 – Rev Transcripts
- Are large grocery chains putting profits before people? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think a significant raise in the federal minimum wage is likely in the next year? What will it mean for retailers and those they employ?