Increasing the minimum wage

Full-time workers should not have to live below the poverty line.

Daily Editorial Board

From internships to part-time positions, low paying jobs are often the norm for college students. But for Minnesota workers trying to provide for their families, the current minimum wage isn’t enough. Nearly 40 percent of Minnesota jobs pay workers less than needed to support their families, and a couple with two children would have to work 155 hours a week just to make ends meet under the current minimum wage, according to the St. Paul-based JOBS NOW Coalition.

Minnesota law allows employers who have an annual sales volume of less than $500,000 to pay their employees as low as $5.25 an hour, and according to JOBS NOW, 19 percent of Minnesota jobs pay less than $10 per hour.

Job growth since the recession has been the highest for low-wage positions, representing 58 percent of all jobs added. In 2008, President Barack Obama vowed that he would raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. Little action on the issue has been taken by Obama since making this pledge.

While it’s unlikely that Congress will raise the federal minimum wage anytime soon, New Mexico is including a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage on its November ballot. A resolution to increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour in New Jersey will be placed on the state’s 2013 ballot if it receives legislative approval. If Obama and Congress continue to be silent on the issue, local lawmakers should take it upon themselves to ensure workers in their state are paid a living wage.

Raising the minimum wage would help boost the economy by giving American workers a much needed increase in spending power and would lift working families out of poverty. Further inaction on the issue will harm an already weakened working class.