Is the current minimum wage a relic of the past?

Is the current minimum wage a relic of the past?

Are the current minimum wages of $7.25 and $8.56 an hour relics of the past? It appears possible. On November 3, low-wage workers were given a boost when Florida passed a resolution to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour.

It has been eight years since fast-food workers walked off their jobs in New York City and began calling for a $15 minimum wage. Soon, the “Fight for $15” grew to be a huge protest movement across the U.S. and has won several important victories.

President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign promoted raising the minimum wage, and Florida’s vote came even as the state voted for Donald Trump in last month’s election.

Florida is the first state in the south and the ninth overall – California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia – to adopt the increase. Several big corporations including Amazon, Target and Walt Disney have also joined the movement, raising their minimum wages to $15.

Unlike the presidential election, there does not appear to be a huge divide in this movement. Raising the minimum wage has broad support across the U.S., even in Republican states. In Florida, over 60% of the voters approved the measure. In Louisiana, a long-time Republican state where the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, 59% of the residents support the $15 fight, according to a Louisiana State University poll.

But would such a raise be bad for business? When Florida last increased its minimum wage in 2004, unemployment actually decreased and 200,000 jobs were added the following year.

Many Republicans still oppose the raise and could potentially oppose Biden as he attempts to pass the first increase in 11 years. In Florida, the amendment was opposed by Governor Ron DeSantis.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, low-wage workers have been hit hardest, according to Holly Sklar, chief executive officer of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

“The purpose of minimum wage since it was first enacted in 1938 was to help us recover from the Great Depression,” she said. “We believe you cannot build a shared economic recovery on a minimum wage that’s too low to live on.”

Sklar believes the Florida victory is an important win for low-wage workers, especially benefitting women and minorities who make up a large percentage of the low-income workforce. The raise is expected to increase wages for 2.5 million Florida residents, while also decreasing the gender wage gap.

Even after Biden’s presidential victory, change is still considered far from certain. The federal minimum wage, set at $7.25 an hour, has not been raised since 2009, the longest it has remained stagnant since a federal minimum wage was first enacted in 1938.

We shall see if the U.S. follows Florida’s lead, but momentum appears to be growing.

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