In his 2013 State Of The Union address, President Obama advocated raising the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour, stating, “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.” Subsequently, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 was introduced to both the House and Senate, proposing raising the minimum wage to $9.80 per hour by 2014. A key component of the bill is its indexing feature, which would provide for annual increases to the rate over future years in order to account for the rising cost of living. The bill, introduced by Sen. Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Miller (D-CA), has largely been sidelined by bills and congressional debates related to debt ceilings, universal healthcare and government shutdowns.
At the forefront of the push for a higher wage are labor unions and fast food workers, who have been striking, protesting and rallying for months, with increasing support from workers in the restaurant, hospitality and retail industries. On August 29, 2013, Atlanta based fast food workers joined a 35 city strike on fast food restaurants around the country, protesting throughout the cities fast food chain restaurants. At the heart of their position is the contention that the current minimum wage does not support current living standards for basic needs like rent, food, childcare and transportation. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, pushed for nearly doubling the current rate of $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour, stating that workers should be able to grow and retire comfortably despite their education levels. While most advocates of raising the wage, don’t quite support raising to as high as $15, most agree that the current wage which was effected July 24, 2009, does not account for inflation and does not allow workers to live above the poverty line and free from public assistance programs. Public opinion seems to be in support of raising the limit, with one study indicating that nearly 75% of likely voters support increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour.
So who’s not in support of the minimum wage increase? Corporations. Corporations employ nearly two-thirds of the workforce’s minimum wage workers and they have stated quite simply that raising the minimum wage would result in fewer jobs. Job cuts are something that no one wants in the face of a nation already trying to recover from a crippling recession. However, labor unions and proponents of increasing the wage counteract by stating that corporations are turning higher profits today as compared to pre-recession, pointing the financial success of Walmart, McDonalds and Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut).