Missing it Again on the Minimum Wage

jonathan-tasiniSee, this is a good example of how the conventional wisdom we hear day after day warps the brain. More people are, in fact, being pushed into minimum wage jobs:

The number of workers in New York state earning minimum wage has increased sharply since the start of the recession, one of the driving factors underlying a debate in Albany over whether to raise the hourly rate.

In 2011, the number of minimum-wage earners statewide stood at about 91,000, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure represents a significant jump from 2008, when an estimated 6,000 people worked at the lowest rung of the income ladder.

The swelling ranks of minimum-wage earners has lent some ammunition to a push by Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to increase the hourly rate for the first time since 2009. It was boosted that year to $7.25 an hour.

Mr. Silver has backed a bill that would an increase the wage to $8.50 an hour, a rate that would be among the highest in the nation. It would then be indexed annually to the inflation rate.

But, the problem is that the solution is a cruel lie. The minimum wage today, if it reflected productivity gains over the last 30 years, should be between $19-$20 an hour. Raising the minimum wage, then, to $8.50 an hour seems like a big deal–except when you understand that it hides the vast robbery that has taken place of the past 30 years and it certainly will not make it possible for people to live with dignity and respect.

This blog originally appeared in Working Life on February 13, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is the executive director of Labor Research Association. Tasini ran for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981).He was the lead plaintiff in Tasini vs. The New York Times, the landmark electronic rights case that took on the corporate media’s assault on the rights of thousands of freelance authors.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.