Minimum Wage Never Intended To Be A Family Income


While the Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, ($2.13 for tipped, food service employees), many states pay higher, with San Francisco, California paying the highest, at $9.79 an hour.  But even at $9.79 an hour, a family of four falls below the poverty level of $23,050.  If that’s the case, what’s the point of a minimum wage?  The minimum wage was never intended to be the minimum salary on which a family could live comfortably.  In 1938, as part of New Deal Legislation and after previous attempts, the minimum wage was established as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It was born from the Great Depression and only applied to certain sectors of the labor force, manual and factory labor. The minimum wage was set up to protect the most vulnerable in the work force, women and children, from unfair labor practices. At the time, it was set at $.25 an hour and the maximum work week was set at 44 hours.  The US was in the heart of the Great Depression.  Men, the primary earners, were either out of work or struggling to make ends meat.  Women and children were entering the labor force in order to help subsidize their families.  Recognizing the deplorable working conditions, Congress and President Roosevelt established the FLSA.  Then in 1941, we entered WWII and many of the male, household wage earners, headed off to Europe and Asia.  Women and children were working in factories, supporting the war effort and their families.  Fast forward to the present; from 1997 until 2007 the minimum wage remained at $5.15 an hour.  In 2007, Congress gave power to the states to control their own minimum wages as long as it was at or above, the federal minimum wage.  The important point is, the concept of minimum wage from then until now, has not changed.  Working in the kitchen at a fast food restaurant for example, was never intended to be a career.  Fast food jobs give young people work experience and a little bit of extra spending money.  They have obviously evolved in to something else.  If fast food restaurants had to pay so-called livable wages, they would have to raise their prices threefold, thereby doing away with the entire concept of fast food.  Who would pay $12.00-$15.00 for chicken nuggets or a hamburger?  Most would choose a “real” restaurant or simply would not be able to afford it.  It would literally mean the end of the fast food industry.  On January 1, 2013, the minimum wage increased in ten states.  But the purpose of the minimum wage, remains the same.  That being said, minimum wage will not be the answer to solving the issue of poverty.

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