Minimum wage since 1938
Since 1938, minimum wage laws have been in place in the United States to ensure a livable wage for those who are just starting out in the workforce. As the cost of living has gone up, minimum wage standards have been adjusted to reflect increased spending power. This article will explore the history of the minimum wage, including how it has changed through the decades and what it means for employers and employees today.
1. Uncovering the History of Minimum Wage Since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
Since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the United States has seen significant changes in the federal minimum wage. Through our comprehensive research, we will examine the evolution of this legislation over the past eight decades.
When the FLSA was first enacted, minimum wage covered certain types of employees, primarily those in industrial occupations. However, by the 1950s, most workers were covered, including:
- Retail and service workers
- Farm laborers
- Domestic workers
The FLSA also established the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, and child labor protections. Over time, the federal minimum wage has been raised in three steps to its current level.
2. Examining America’s Renewed Interest in Minimum Wage
Since an increase in the minimum wage was first proposed by President Barack Obama in 2014, the conversation around the wages of low-income American workers has been reignited. These renewed interests are mainly spurred by the economic reality that an increasing number of families, who are working full-time jobs, are still unable to make a living. Even with the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, a full-time, working member of a family cannot even break the poverty level of income. With working class wages failing to match inflation and rising costs of living, the push for raising the minimum wage is inevitable.
Despite strong opposition from business owners, many lawmakers are now looking to increase the rate of minimum wage. Already, 29 states have adopted a rate higher than the federal law. Three of these states, California, New York, and Washington have even adopted an $15 per hour rate. This will gradually raise wages for millions of American workers starting in 2020. Additionally, a number of states have also taken it upon themselves to get rid of the tipped minimum wage and are now advocating to take on the One Fair Wage. This law requires that all workers, including those who receive tips, must receive at least the minimum wage.
- 29 states have adopted a rate higher than the federal law
- 3 states have even adopted an $15 per hour rate
- States are now advocating to take on the One Fair Wage
3. Assessing the Impact of Minimum Wage Changes Over Time
The minimum wage is one of the most important components of a country’s economic health and social fabric, and how it is handled can have a lasting impact on a nation’s people and economy. To effectively examine such an impact, there are a few methods used to assess the effects of minimum wage changes over a given period of time.
Firstly, it is important to measure the effects of the changes across different parts of the population. Different demographics such as individuals with different levels of educational attainment can experience wages increases in different ways, and these effects can need to be evaluated. Secondly, the analysis should calculate the effects of the minimum wages on other economic variables, such as inflation and unemployment rates. This can help to ascertain whether the changes have wider economic implications or are more limited.
- Compare populations: Evaluating the effects of changes across different segments of population
- Measure economic impact: Consider changes in inflation & unemployment rate
4. Charting the Future of Minimum Wage Legislation
Before we can begin to explore the future of minimum wage legislation, it’s important to understand the present and what has come before. The federal minimum wage today is $7.25, unchanged since 2009. This low wage affects millions of Americans and has been a particular hardship for those who must support their families on one income.
However, within recent years, there has been a lot of movement towards raising the minimum wage. On one hand, there is the Fight for $15 movement, an effort to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour across America. On the other, some states have taken matters into their own hands and raised the minimum wage above $7.25 within their own borders. Now, the question is not ‘if’, but ‘how’ should the minimum wage be set, and ‘when’?
It’s clear that the minimum wage should not be static but instead, should be adjusted as the needs of citizens and the cost of living change. One possible way to achieve this is through cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), which could automatically link the minimum wage to inflation. With COLA, the minimum wage could be naturally adjusted as the economic environment changes, without the need for legislative action.
The conversation is still ongoing and the future of minimum wage legislation is unlikely to be settled anytime soon. In the meantime, one thing is for certain: Every step forward in legislation, no matter how small, is closer to helping millions of Americans reach a stable financial future. So, for over eighty years, the minimum wage has been a contentious issue with no clear resolution in sight. While it’s clear that having a livable wage is necessary, it remains to be seen how it will affect the future of our economy. As the debate continues, we should be vigilant about our rights to ensure everyone is provided the wages they deserve.