Several stories over the past couple of days about how the concept of a $15 minimum wage is gaining traction all over the country, even in places where such a thing seemed highly unlikely just a few years ago.
From USA Today:
"With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, layoffs mounting and $2,000 stimulus checks for U.S. households looking highly uncertain, there couldn’t be a better time to bump up the minimum wage for millions of low-paid Americans, worker advocacy groups say.
"Employers argue there couldn’t be a worse time, with small businesses struggling to survive amid plunging revenue and a new round of state shutdowns aimed at curtailing the latest coronavirus spike.
"So far, workers appear to have won the fight and will reap the benefits starting Friday.
"Twenty states and 32 cities and counties – including many in California – are set to raise their minimum wages on or about New Year’s Day, according to a report provided exclusively to USA Today by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a worker advocacy group. About half of those localities will reach the $15 threshold championed by striking fast-food workers and deemed a pipe dream just a few years ago.
"Since some will act later in the year, a total 24 states and 50 cities and counties – a record 74 jurisdictions – will boost their pay floors sometime in 2021, NELP figures show."
The story goes on: "The turnabout in views about a $15 wage base has been head-spinning. Even states with relatively low minimums, like Florida and Virginia, are poised for significant increases in 2021 and headed toward $15, or at least the strong possibility of it, by 2026."
The New York Times sings a similar song:
"It started in 2012 with a group of protesters outside a McDonald’s demanding a $15 minimum wage — an idea that even many liberal lawmakers considered outlandish. In the years since, their fight has gained traction across the country, including in conservative states with low union membership and generally weak labor laws … The movement’s strength — a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in Florida to $15 by 2026 was passed in November — could put renewed pressure on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, where it has been since 2009. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has endorsed $15 an hour at the federal level and other changes sought by labor groups, like ending the practice of a lower minimum wage for workers like restaurant workers who receive tips.
"But even without congressional action, labor activists said they would keep pushing their campaign at the state and local levels. By 2026, 42 percent of Americans will work in a location with a minimum wage of at least $15 an hour, according to an Economic Policy Institute estimate cited in the NELP report."
- KC's View:
It is a fair point that the establishment of a $15 minimum wage is more complicated than just a number, especially for small businesses.
But I do wonder about a couple of things.
First, unless you are a student trying to make some extra money, a $7.25/hour minimum age seems completely disconnected from any sort of reality. (If you are a student trying to earn money to pay for an education, that certainly isn't a number that makes any sense at all.)
Second, it seems to me that especially at retail, one of the things that bricks-and-mortar businesses need to focus on is creating superior levels of customer service … and one of the ways that you do that is through superior people who feel invested in your business … which requires that you invest in them.
In the end, however, it would appear that it may matter little what the federal minimum wage is … because states and communities are making these moves on their own and connecting the minimum wage to 2021 realities.