News flash out of Seattle: the minimum wage has just been raised to $15/hour, by far the highest in the country. Indeed, it’s double or more the rate in Arkansas ($6.25) and about half the states, almost triple the rate in Georgia and Wyoming ($5.15), and five states (including Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana) have no minimum wage guidelines.
Here’s a summary provided at the website of the National Council of State Legislatures as of May 2014:
- 38 states have considered minimum wage bills during the 2014 session; 34 states are considering increases to the state minimum wage.
- Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, West Virginia and D.C. have enacted increases so far in 2014.
- As of May 28, the legislature in Vermont passed an increase but the bill is awaiting action by the Vermont governor.
- As of June 1, 22 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
- 19 states, Guam, and the Virgin Islands have minimum wages the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
- 4 states, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico have minimum wages below the federal minimum wage (the federal minimum thus applies).
- 1 state, New Hampshire, repealed their state minimum wage in 2011, but left the reference to the federal minimum wage.
- 5 states have not established a state minimum wage.
New York State has passed legislation that raised the minimum wage to $8.00/hour beginning December 31, 2013; going up to $8.75 December 31, 2014 and to $9.00 December 31, 2015. As of this spring New York City was considering raising the city’s rate to $15/hour. Also under consideration, a recommendation to increase the statewide minimum wage to $10.10/hour, leapfrogging over the current legislation. This proposal would permit localities to raise the minimum to as much as 30% more than the state minimum.
Obviously, Old Forge and Newcomb, Burlington and Plattsburgh are not Seattle…or New York City. With no local minimum wage guidelines, communities default to the state rate.
What’s fair? In the north country, should farm labor enjoy the benefits of a higher minimum wage? How about waiters and bartenders? When I was a teenager, my first waitressing job paid $.85/hour because the assumption was that tips would fill in enough to give me a reasonable wage. Below minimum rates are still often the case for workers who rely on gratuities.
Why a minimum wage? Some argue that we need a “living wage” rather than a minimum wage which can be too low to pay basic living expenses.
The notion of a living wage is much more controversial than the minimum wage. Even the Wikipedia page on living wage is filled with disagreement about the concept. But you get the idea: a living wage is conceived as a way to address the insufficiency of minimum wages to sustain a working family.
That’s the concept. You may or may not agree. Living wage? Robust minimum wage? No government legislation or even guidelines? Where do you stand on this one?