Another Year Passes Without Action on the Minimum Wage
Tomorrow marks four years since the federal minimum wage was last increased. The lack of progress on increasing the minimum wage means that tens of thousands of low-wage workers are seeing their purchasing power decrease a little bit each year, slowing the economy and making it difficult for families to get by.
Only July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage increased from $6.55 to $7.25, where it has remained since then, with no adjustments for inflation.
Four years might seem like a long time for the federal minimum wage to be set at the same level – and it is – but it pales in comparison with the length of time that has passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage for tipped employees, which has been set at $2.13 for the last 21 years.
A lot has happened in the 21 years since the federal minimum wage for tipped employees was increased. Our technology, communities, and labor markets are all very different today than they were 21 years ago, but the federal minimum wage for tipped employees remained frozen since then. When the federal minimum tipped wage last increased:
- The first Starbucks had yet to open its doors;
- Jeffrey Dahmer was still a free man;
- Parades welcomed soldiers home from the first Iraq War; and
- Arnold Schwarzenegger was a well-paid movie star, not an ex-Governor.
More than 75 million people living in the United States were born since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, including some of these well-known youngsters:
Wisconsin’s minimum wage for tipped employees is $0.20 more than the federal minimum, lower than the surrounding states of Minnesota ($6.15), Illinois ($4.95), Iowa ($4.35), and Michigan ($2.65).
Raising the minimum wage for all workers would help boost consumer spending, create new customers for businesses, and help make it easier for the lowest-paid workers to make ends meet. Instead of letting years – or decades – go by before increasing the minimum wage, policymakers should index the minimum wage to inflation.