How $15 Works

Wage Basics

How $15 Works

One of the most common criticisms of the idea of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is that it’s just too much, too fast, that our economy won’t be able to handle such a quick increase. But that argument just doesn’t mesh with the reality of how raising the wage to $15 would actually work.

The Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15.00 an hour over a 6 year period. Introduced in 2017, that would have meant a $15 minimum wage in 2023. If it were passed in 2020, that would mean we wouldn’t reach $15 until 2026. That’s hardly a rapid increase, especially considering inflation and the rising cost of living.

Speaking of inflation, part of the reason the current minimum wage is so weak is its static nature in the face of rising prices. Lawmakers first set the minimum wage assuming that their successors would continue to increase it as time went by, but Congress has voted to increase the minimum wage only twice since 1992, and hasn’t increased it at all since 2007. This inaction means that, as inflation continues, the real value of the minimum wage continues to fall. It’s already lost nearly a dollar in value since 2009 alone. 

To fix this problem, and to ensure that future generations aren’t forced to deal with the same issues we currently face, the Raise the Wage Act would index the $15 minimum wage to the median wage in America. This means that over the years the minimum wage would continue to increase automatically to keep pace with the wages of the rest of the population. So if in the future the average American is making 10% more, then the minimum wage would be increased by 10% without requiring congressional action.

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