Washington, D.C. —Today marks Minimum Wage Workers’ Equal Pay Day. Minimum wage workers are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus crisis, either working in occupations that require significant contact with the public without paid sick leave and other benefits, or facing the brunt of layoffs and lost hours. A new analysis from the Center for American Progress looks at the difficulty that minimum wage workers faced even before the crisis, losing significant purchasing power since the federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009. Minimum wage workers were able to save less because of federal inaction on increasing the minimum wage, and if they are laid off, their unemployment insurance will replace lower wages than they should have had.
A full-time minimum wage worker needs to work nearly 20 percent longer than they did in 2009 to make the same salary in real dollars. In other words, they need to work 54 days into the next year—from January 1, 2019, to today, March 19, 2020—to earn the equivalent of their 2009 salary. This disparity is due to inflation and the U.S. Senate’s failure to act to raise the federal minimum wage, despite the fact that it’s been more than six months since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Raise the Wage Act. The Raise the Wage Act would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; eliminate the subminimum wage for workers who earn tips and for workers with disabilities; and tie the wage level to inflation for future automated increases. While the Raise the Wage Act languishes in the Senate, workers lose $62 every eight-hour workday earning an hourly wage of $7.25 instead of $15. That’s $310 a week, $1,348 a month, and $16,174 a year.
“Minimum wage workers will be among the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. They are also some of the least prepared to weather the crisis, because they have not received a pay increase in nearly 11 years,” said Lily Roberts, director of Economic Mobility at CAP and one of the co-authors of the analysis. “As the Senate considers policies to mitigate the economic harms of the coronavirus, help families, and stimulate the economy, one easy, effective step is to pass the Raise the Wage Act. The additional $310 a week a minimum wage worker would receive is money families could use to buy groceries, seek medical treatment, and more broadly, boost the economy.”
Read the column: “Observing Minimum Wage Workers’ Equal Pay Day: The Importance of Passing the Raise the Wage Act” by Lily Roberts, Galen Hendricks, and Robin Bleiweis
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at gro.ssergorpnacirema@kcisucj.