By Hannah Schultz, Foreign Correspondent
Prior to 2016, the United States had maintained its minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for six years; however, many states are now working towards raising the minimum wage. According to Reuters, 14 states and several cities are moving forward with their own increases above the federally mandated minimum this year.
Most of the increases “come in the wake of a series of ‘living wage’ protests across the country, including a November campaign in which thousands of protesters in 270 cities marched in support of a $15-an-hour minimum wage and union rights for fast food workers” according to Reuters. A Politico article said that a majority of mayors are in favor of increasing the minimum wage in response to concerns about their poorest citizens.
Not everyone is in favor of raising the minimum wage. One of the major battles over this issue is currently taking place in Seattle, with the possibility of the dispute heading to the Supreme Court later this spring. Seattle is one of the cities to recently have passed law increasing the minimum wage, but franchises, which are independently owned and operated businesses within a parent company, are pushing back.
According to the Guardian, the new law states that companies with more than 500 employees are required to begin paying their employees $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2017. Other companies with 500 or fewer employees, which are considered small businesses, will have to begin paying their employees $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2021, four years later than the larger companies.
Those arguing that this law should be taken to the Supreme Court believe that the government is incorrectly calculating the number of employees within the franchise by grouping them under the parent company.
“Our appeal has never sought to prevent the City of Seattle’s wage law from going into effect,” said International Franchise Association president and CEO Robert Cresanti in a press release. “Our appeal to the Supreme Court will be focused solely on the discriminatory treatment of franchisees under Seattle’s wage law and the motivation to discriminate against interstate commerce.”
The issue of raising the minimum wage has also been a major point in the presidential campaign, starkly dividing the Democrats and Republicans. According to CNBC, at the Democratic Debate in Iowa, both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley stated they are in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton said she would only raise the federal minimum wage to $12 but support state and local fights for $15 in places with higher costs of living like Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City.
For Republican candidates, the fight to raise minimum wage is contrary to their idea of an economically prosperous nation. At the Republican debate in Wisconsin, moderator Neil Cavuto referenced “Fight for $15” protests outside the debate venue, asking the candidates if they were sympathetic to the cause. According to an article by CNBC, Trump said, “…[with] wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is.”
Fellow candidate Ben Carson agrees with Trump. He echoed Trump’s sentiments, saying, “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”
Marco Rubio also joined the opposition chorus, calling raising the minimum wage “a disaster.”
According to a Reuters article, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 2014 federal proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would have raised the wages of 16.5 million Americans. While this would have lifted 900,000 of them out of poverty, it would have come at the cost of as many as 1 million jobs.
The same article cited Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University and former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said a federal minimum wage of up to $12 an hour, phased in over five years or so, “would not have a noticeable effect on employment.”