Raising the minimum wage to a living wage level of $15 an hour over the next seven years would have the effect of raising the pay of more than 41 million workers nationwide, a new report stated.
The document, released on the eighth anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), showed the greatest gains would come in the 21 states whose wage floor is tied to the $7.25 an hour federal standard. There, some 20.7 million workers would benefit.
“The federal minimum wage is supposed to provide a meaningful standard to ensure that workers everywhere in the country are paid at least an adequate wage to meet their basic needs,” said Christine Owens, NELP’s executive director. “Instead, at such an appallingly low wage level, it’s being used as a weight to suppress workers’ wages.”
In seven of the 21 states following the $7.25 minimum wage, more than a million workers would see their hourly pay rise if the minimum wage was increased to $15. Texas leads the way with nearly 4.7 million workers who would benefit from such a wage hike. The other states are Georgia, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
Of course, the benefits go far beyond those states. In 19 of the 21 states following the federal minimum wage, more than 30 percent of wage earning would benefit from an increase to a $15 wage floor. Mississippi leads all states at 44.4 percent.
There are also plenty of people in states whose minimum wage is above $7.25 would benefit. In fact, NELP states that in the 13 states with a minimum wage of more than the federal minimum but less than $9 an hour, nearly 13 million more workers would see a pay hike.
Lawmakers in some states and cities haven’t been waiting around for Congress to act on raises wages. Just last month, in places like Oregon, Maryland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C., the minimum wage went up because elected officials there acted. That’s a good thing.
But as this report shows, it isn’t enough. Not when cost-of-living projections show that by 2024 workers nationwide will need at least a $15 an hour full-time job to afford life’s basics. Instead of trying to take away health care for tens of millions, Congress should be taking up legislation that allows more than 40 million workers to have more money to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
It’s time for elected officials in the nation’s capital to stand with their constituents and get this done!