The fight to raise the minimum wage from the current federal mandate of $7.25 an hour to $10.10 has met with fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. Now, low-wage workers are taking matters into their own hands, asking their employers to commit to raising their pay without waiting to be legally required to do so.
Fast food workers have been particularly active in the fight to raise the minimum wage, holding rallies around the country to ask for a $15 an hour minimum. The Wall Street Journal notes that nearly half of minimum wage earners in the United States work in food services.
Employers, meanwhile, have responded in various ways, from claiming that raising the minimum wage would skyrocket costs and require them to cut jobs or benefits, to emphasizing the low numbers of workers currently earning the federal minimum at their companies.
Wal-Mart, in particular, has been vocal about its non-opposition to raising minimum wage. Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon told The Wall Street Journal that only 5,000 of its 1.3 million workers in the U.S. make minimum wage.
Costco CEO and President Craig Jelinek supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — which is still lower than the $11.50 an hour that starting Costco employees make the day they begin work. In fact, Jelinek told Seattle Weekly earlier this year that he’d support a raise to $15 an hour.
“I think $15 is fair,” he said, adding, “$15 seems not even a living wage.”
Of course, critics were quick to point out that Costco’s cost structure makes a higher wage much more feasible for the retailer than for its competitors, which means that, in fact, higher wages for everyone would actually help Costco by hurting the competition.
In February, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would lift 900,000 families out of poverty — but at the possible cost of reducing employment by 500,000 workers.
Meanwhile, 21 states and the District of Columbia currently have minimum wages higher than the federal floor, and several cities, including San Francisco, have independently voted to raise the minimum wage within their borders.
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