WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
(a handout from Karen Conley, Lexington Working Families Campaign)
- The current Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator for Fayette County indicates that a single mother (with just one child) working full-time must earn at least $17.60 per hour to adequately support her family (http://livingwage.mit.edu/).
- Women are more likely than men to be in a minimum-wage job, and women are also much more likely to be raising a family on their own. (See "Who Stands to Benefit from a Minimum Increase in Lexington," KY Center for Economic Policy.)
- A 2014 local housing study (Lexington's Affordable Housing Challenge and Potential Strategy, February 2014) stated that Lexington's housing costs have been rising much faster than wages for decades. The study noted that 87% of all rental housing units in Lexington were affordable to households working at the minimum wage in 1990 but that only 17% were affordable to such families by 2012.
- As the purchasing power of the current minimum wage slips further and further below the real costs of living, more and more low-wage workers are relying on public assistance programs just to survive. Enrollment in these programs, such as SNAPS (formerly called Food Stamps) is steadily rising. Employers paying less than living wages are actually advising their employees to apply for these programs. These employers are increasing their profits by shifting costs to taxpayer funded programs. Raising the minimum wage lowers government safety-net costs, increases tax revenues, and gives people more money to spend, which in turn boosts the local economy.
- People who are determined to keep wages low (and profits high) adamantly state that raising the minimum wage results in the loss of low-wage jobs. But more and more research shows that this is simply not true. A 2010 UC Berkeley study (http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2010/12/01/minimumwagejobs/) found that, “Increasing the minimum wage does not lead to the short- or long-term loss of low-paying jobs.”
- A 2014 research study (http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/local-minimum-wage-laws-impacts-on-workers-families-and-businesses/) indicated that "minimum wage mandates raise the incomes of low-wage workers and their families, and the costs to businesses are absorbed largely by reduced turnover costs and by small price increases among restaurants".
- Polls confirm that Americans from across the political and ideological spectrum are overwhelmingly in favor of a substantial increase in the minimum wage. (See for example, the Pew Research Center poll in 2014).
- Perhaps the most compelling reason to increase the minimum wage is the moral imperative of economic justice. The benefits of our economic system are increasingly going to the top of the income ladder while most workers are struggling to survive on less and less. If a person is working full-time they should not be forced to live in poverty. In 1933, after signing the National Industrial Recovery Act into law, FDR said, "..... no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By "business" I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level - I mean the wages of decent living".