Peter Ruark, Michigan League for Public Policy
Seventy-five years ago President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the first minimum wage bill, saying: “Our nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
In 2006, we raised Michigan’s minimum wage in three steps up to $7.40. After that, for the first time in many years, the minimum wage was high enough to bring a full-time working single parent with one child out of poverty.
Last year, the minimum wage no longer did that. A single parent with one child who works full time is once again below poverty level. This is because the minimum wage stayed level at $7.40—it does not have an annual adjustment for inflation.
We need to raise the minimum wage again and have an annual increase so that those who work full time and raise families will not be poor.
Fortunately, there is a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and a state bill to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $10 an hour. If either of those become law, it will raise the wages of more than 1 million Michigan workers.
There are a couple urban legends that fly every time such a proposal is introduced, so let’s rid the discussion of these canards right now. Contrary to the somber warnings, raising the minimum wage has not been shown to hurt jobs. There is no correlation between a state’s unemployment and the level of its minimum wage. On the contrary, when people have wage increases they spend more money locally, which helps to create jobs.
Some people say a minimum wage increase will mainly help teenagers. Don’t believe that one either! Approximately 85% of Michigan workers who will benefit from a minimum wage increase are 20 years old or older.
In America, we believe that if you work full time you should not be in poverty, yet in Michigan many full-time workers are poor. Let’s work to change that. Tell your state lawmakers and your members of Congress that it is time to raise the minimum wage and put in an annual adjustment for inflation.