A $7.25 federal minimum wage is a moral outrage.
HOUGHTON, Mich. — A living wage is the amount of money needed for a given worker to cover the cost of their minimum needs where they live. These expenses include food, childcare, health insurance, housing, transportation, education, regular savings, and other necessities like clothing and personal care items.
Jobs with living wages enable us to thrive and are a vital part of our economic viability. If an adult is working a full-time job, they should not be forced to rely on food stamps to sustain their family. For far too many Michigan residents, their current wages disable them from affording basic amenities. It's unacceptable.
The minimum wage needs to adjust to inflation. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. It was last updated in 2009. This is absurd. While Michigan's minimum wage is $9.87, it's still too low.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated, "It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country... and by living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level, I mean the wages of decent living."
It can be as simple as this: a full-time job should be a full-time sustaining position. When a full-time position pays less than a living wage, the worker must rely on government support to stay afloat. Unless we make necessary earning adjustments, taxpayers end up footing the bill for a responsibility that belongs to employers.
Some argue that increased minimum wages are unfair to rural business because, e.g. the cost of living in Northern Michigan is less than in other parts of the country. However, this argument only fares well in a purely local economy. In a hyper-connected economy, we need to adjust our thinking about expenses - Air travel, car purchases, healthcare, and many other costs are intertwined in the global market and are not just localized expenditures like housing or food.
I want all Michiganders to be able to thrive in the global economy. As Americans, we value hard work. It is callous to tell hard-working Americans to work several jobs to sustain themselves and their dependents if they're already toiling 40+ hours a week. It is an enterprise's responsibility to meet its personnel needs, respect their employee's time, and value their contributions to profitability.
Employees are not commodities. They are people. Behind each working person is a family.
What does it mean as a country if a full-time worker can only make $15,080 annually when our poverty threshold for an individual is $12,880? A full-time worker may be the only one able to work in a family of 3-4 people. They need to support their family, and they need a salary that reflects their hard work.
Our minimum must reflect the values of our country. Two-thirds of Americans favor a $15 minimum wage. Providing employees a living wage is the right thing to do. It is ethical and just; several of the principles my campaign supports.
The concern that minimum wages destroy jobs comes from basic economic models: supply and demand. However, the reality is more complex. Economists no longer think higher minimum wages are always bad, destroy jobs, result in increased unemployment, or destroy small businesses.
Most research indicates a $15/hr. minimum wage is the minimum bar that should reasonably establish to accomplish a livable wage, allowing a decent living.
How would increased wages benefit people, the economy, and small business employers?
Benefits to the People
According to the Economic Policy Institute, "a single adult without children needs at least $31,200—what a full-time worker making $15 an hour earns annually—to achieve a modest but adequate standard of living."
Substitute teachers, nursing assistants, home health aides, residential or nursing care staff, retail-sector, janitors, housekeepers, and millions of other workers in health care, education, construction, and manufacturing would benefit from an increase in the Minimum Wage.
Essential and front-line workers make up 60% of those who benefit from a $15 minimum wage. The median pay is well under $15 an hour for many essential and front-line jobs; examples include substitute teachers ($13.84), nursing assistants ($14.26), and home health aides ($12.15).
More than one-third of those working in residential or nursing care facilities would see their pay increase, in addition to home health aides and other health care support workers.
One in three retail-sector workers would get a raise, including 42% of workers in grocery stores.
More than 40% of janitors, housekeepers, and other cleaning workers would benefit.
Nearly two-thirds of servers, cooks, and other food preparation workers would see their earnings rise by $5,800 on a year-round basis.
Ten million workers in health care, education, construction, and manufacturing would see a raise—representing nearly one-third (31%) of the workers who would see a raise.
Benefits to the Economy
An increased minimum wage helps the economy. In the end, people will seek the resources they need to sustain their life. If we are not providing them a living wage via a full-time position, people will use government subsidies. Currently, the government is fulfilling the responsibility of businesses and using taxpayer funds.
FROM EPI - In states without a $15 minimum wage law, public support programs for underpaid workers and their families make up 42% of total spending on Medicaid and CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program), cash assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF), food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP), and the earned income tax credit (EITC), and cost federal and state taxpayers more than $107 billion a year.
Benefits to Small Business / Employers
Adequate-paying jobs mean less turnover, more productivity, increased employee retention, and a workforce more inclined to value loyalty and longevity. Better wages equate to better company culture and more dependable employees. It correlates to enhanced quality products and services that reflect profitability. Higher-paid employees tend to value their job, take pride in their work, are more mindful of their time, and can be incredibly efficient.
With a federally increased minimum wage, Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula will still benefit from contractors seeking out areas with less expensive living costs. We cannot afford to exploit and perpetuate the economic challenges that so many residents in the region face every day. We should revitalize our economy, attract new residents, and make this district a better place to live, play, and work. Well paying jobs can provide:
An economic benefit - business growth.
An employer benefit - a reliable workforce.
An employed benefit - more spending power.
I hope all small businesses are paying a wage that supports a decent living for full-time adults. Many small businesses are doing just that. I hope it helps their profitability while providing excellent products and services to our communities. This is what America is all about.