Debating the ideal way to help low-wage workers, as was done at a local forum Monday (“Business group head, labor leader, academic debate minimum wage hike,” Feb. 25), is useful long-term, but right now, the simplest step is to raise the minimum wage.
As one of the forum participants pointed out, most minimum-wage workers aren’t carefree teenagers; with an average age of 35, they supply half their household income and many are raising kids. That’s harder and harder to do, since after factoring in inflation, the minimum wage today — which works out to only $15,000 a year — is lower than it was in 1968.
A bill in Congress would gradually raise the wage to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation in order to keep up with rising prices. As a reliable supporter of working people, it would make sense for U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly to join the one-third of the Senate that is already co-sponsoring this legislation.
Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Rather, increasing the purchasing power of low-wage workers boosts local economies and leads to more hiring.
Kyle Hannon, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, was reported as saying he couldn’t find any local employers who were paying the minimum wage, and yet also is quoted as claiming raising the wage would cost jobs. Even if you overlook that apparent contradiction, the reality is that most minimum wage jobs are vital parts of a business — restaurant dishwasher, motel housekeeper — that won’t go away.