Minimum wage — not just your summer job

Added October 21st, 2013 by Yannet Lathrop | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Yannet Lathrop

Long gone are the days when minimum-wage jobs, such as those in food service, were the province of suburban teenagers starting their working lives. A great majority (85%) of low-wage workers in Michigan are at least 20 years old, and 82% have a high school degree or higher. Nearly a quarter of them are also parents supporting children according to a report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

These facts suggest a reconsideration of the minimum wage, not as pocket change for teenagers, but as wages for adults who are responsible for themselves, and perhaps for young children.

As it stands right now, working for $7.40 per hour means working for poverty wages. At this rate, a single parent raising a young child would not be able to earn enough from full-time, year-long work to avoid poverty. Even a single person without dependents, earning the minimum wage, would not reach 138% of the federal poverty level.That is pretty much a Dickensian life for many in Michigan.

But if the minimum wage was raised to $10.10 an hour, over 1 million low-income Michiganians would earn an additional $2,256 annually, on average. That is a modest amount that would impose little or no hardship on businesses.

In fact, according to our calculations, increasing the minimum wage to this rate would increase economic activity in the state by over $1 billion and create around 4,600 jobs. So, what’s good for low-income families ends up being good for businesses and the state. Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn’t it?

The benefits of raising the minimum wage have been seen by some small business owners. Moo Cluck Moo, a burger joint in Dearborn Heights, has received nationwide attention for its support for a strong minimum wage. And according to a poll by the Small Business Majority, 67% of small business owners support an increase, and 65% believe that this would help spur consumer demand.

At the state Capitol, Sen. Bert Johnson and Rep. Rashida Tlaib have introduced legislation  (SB 203 and HB 4554), which would increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2016, and index it to inflation so its real value does not diminish as consumer prices raise.

We hope to see action soon on these bills that have been sitting in committee since the beginning of this year. The Legislature would do well to seriously consider their merit and pass legislation that does not force hard-working families to put in their 40 hours and earn so little that they must rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

— Yannet Lathrop

One Response to “Minimum wage — not just your summer job”

  1. Paul N. Shaheen says:

    I totally agree with raising the minimum wage! I was recently in Australia where the social and economic commitment to their population far exceeds our own.. The Minimum wage there is $ 21.00 an hour! No one who works has to face poverty! How can they be so wise and we so cruel?
    If we want less government involvement in a Human Services context all we have to do is pay people decently!
    The rich there are no less rich and they do not have our kinds of poverty and racism! Take note America, and act humanely!
    Paul Shaheen

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