Kojo Quartey: The minimum wage is not a living wage

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It was 1979, when I was a college freshman trying to pay for my education at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. I worked as a dishwasher/bus worker and then a security guard. I was happy to earn the minimum wage of $2.90. Heck, I was happy to have a job! There was a .05 cent bonus for working the midnight shift, so I preferred to work that shift, and it allowed for more studying while I was working, unless there was a break-in, which happened often (not always while I was working). He was studying).

Today there are some workers in our economy who simply earn the minimum wage. In economic terms, the minimum wage is an example of a “minimum price”, which is the price (wage) that an employer cannot reduce by law, resulting in a surplus of workers (more unemployment). Without minimum wage legislation, many employers (purchasers or seekers of labor) would pay lower wages and be able to hire more workers (suppliers of labor), unemployment would be lower, but there would likely be more exploitation of these workers as they They are paid less than they deserve.

Kojo Quartey, president of Monroe County Community College

Kojo Quartey, president of Monroe County Community College

The federal minimum wage was first established by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 during the Great Depression as part of the New Deal. It first started at 25 cents per hour (equivalent to $5.40 in 2023, using… usinflationcalculator.com). In 2009, the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 ($10.30 in 2023) per hour and has remained the same since then. It is important to note that different states and some municipalities have different minimum wages, which tend to be higher than the federal level.

In Michigan, the minimum wage was recently raised from $10.10 to $10.33, and employers are required to pay at least this amount to employees; So, in Michigan, at least, the minimum wage is keeping up with inflation. The minimum wage also varies for tipped workers, but their hourly wages must reach at least the minimum wage, at the end of the day. In 2022, 30 states and the District of Columbia will have wage rates higher than the federal minimum wage, as will a large number of municipalities. Its price ranges from $7.25 in several states to $16.50 in Washington, D.C.; Ironically, federal lawmakers enact minimum wage laws.

When the minimum wage was first enacted, some say the goal was to protect “unskilled workers,” that is, those working in jobs that even a five-year-old could not do. Since these workers do not require specialized training or education, they can be exploited by employers and the market. Indeed.com defines unskilled labor as work that does not require a specific set of skills or formal education. Examples given include cashiers, grocery clerks, and janitors. truly?! In this day and age, I can’t really think of truly unskilled labor. There are skills required to be a cleaner or (cashier – have you done that – your balance at the end of the shift better be no more or less!). I’m feeling overwhelmed and can’t think of any truly unskilled workers. Even packing groceries requires some minimal skills (to avoid broken eggs or mashed bananas). A 5-year-old cannot do any of these functions really effectively.

Every worker in our economy deserves a decent wage because they are doing their part to support our economy. For any full-time employee, today’s minimum wage is not a living wage anywhere in the United States. A living wage is the minimum wage a worker receives to meet his basic needs and stay above the poverty level. Calculate the living wage For a single adult, without children, in Michigan it was $16.27 in 2022, compared to the minimum wage of $10.10.

Any change in the minimum wage will have some impact on wages and thus prices and employment. As a former minimum wage worker, I appreciate that the law exists, but in many cases, these workers, who necessarily represent an important part of our economy and tend to be more skilled, especially with the advent of more technology, deserve better. In order to make a living, many of them end up working multiple jobs and more hours, hoping that this time and a half will come close to a living wage. For all minimum wage workers, I strongly suggest more education and improved skills. It made a difference for me.

— Kojo Quartey, Ph.D., is president of Monroe County Community College and an economist. He can be reached at kquartey@monroeccc.edu.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Kojo Quartey: The minimum wage is not a living wage

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