The decades-long erosion of the minimum wage is one reason for the explosive growth in income inequality. Low-wage jobs now threaten to define the core of the U.S. economy — and over the next decade, low-wage industries such as retail, restaurants and home care are projected to continue supplying the bulk of new job growth. The promise of state and local minimum wage action this year is welcome progress for many low-paid workers across the country. But the crises of low pay and rising income inequality are national in scope and demand national solutions. There’s no better way to start answering both than from the bottom-up, with an increase in the federal minimum wage. And for millions of low-paid Americans, that is the only avenue to higher wages.
The evidence is clear that raising the minimum wage is good for workers and for our economy overall. It’s great that states and localities aren’t waiting to act. Now it’s time for Congress to follow their lead with an urgently-needed increase in the federal minimum wage.
Christine Owens is executive director of the National Employment Law Project.