How the debate over minimum wages has changed

It is interesting how ideas that less than four years ago were portrayed as controversial have now become mainstream. Republicans used to demand the repeal of Obamacare but now they claim that they oppose any lifting of the ban on denying people insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The idea of people being able to keep their children on their plans until they reach the age of 26 is also very popular. Bernie Sanders’ proposal of Medicare for All has been adopted by pretty much all the Democrats running for president.

But nowhere is the shift more apparent than in raising the minimum wage to a value of $15 per hour. Once decried by the business class as a job killer for introductory level jobs, we now find that even McDonalds, one of the biggest employers of such workers, has said that it will not lobby against hikes in the minimum wages at the federal, state, or local level. The Democratic caucus is currently debating a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15.

The department store chain Target announced that they will raise the minimum wage for their employees to $13 an hour, going above Walmart’s $11, and is committed to raising it to $15 by the end of 2020.

The $15 minimum wage movement has found support from Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, part of a new crop of Democrats swept into office this year on a liberal platform.

“Croissants at LaGuardia (New York airport) are going for seven dollars a piece,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on April 1. “Yet some people think getting a whole hour of personal, dedicated human labor for $15 is too expensive??”

Amid the growing political pressure, other companies have also moved to raise wages. For example, Costco Wholesale Corp raised its minimum wage twice in a year and since March has been paying employees at least $15 an hour.

One hopes that this is the start of a competition to raise wages in order to recruit and retain good workers.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    I have a question: all of what appears in this post is good news that appears to demonstrate that the US is moving in a progressive direction.

    How is this happening under Trump?

    It’s not a facetious question, I’m honestly baffled. To “liberals” (I put the quotes round it because it remains, to my UK eyes, a term reserved for the middle ground between the mainstream right and the mainstream left -- although by US standards our mainstream right is practically loony left) Trump is the anti-Christ and everything he touches or goes near turns to Nazi-themed dogturds. And yet… all the above. Is he trying to stop it and failing? What is happening?

  2. anat says

    Part of it is simply an idea whose time has come. Ever since the latest recession there has been increasing activism for worker’s issues (starting from Occupy). It took a while for views to settle on soundbites such as ‘fight for 15’. It took a while for evidence from local efforts (such as Seatac and Seattle) to show that such measures do not collapse the economy that adopts them. It probably would have happened about now in any case, the difference is that now it can be also part of an anti-Trump effort or an attempt to stand out within an anti-Trump field. And Sanders already made it a national issue in 2016 as part of setting himself as more economically progressive than Clinton.

  3. consciousness razor says

    How is this happening under Trump?

    Well, first, it’s not a system with the “government” and “opposition” structure of the UK, and the president plays a very different role. (But he does effectively control a party full of lickspittle goons who will fall in line.)
    Next, how the stuff in the OP or the linked articles is compatible with Republican control….
    1) There are two big companies deciding to raise their wages. The Republican party couldn’t do anything about that. They may even think it validates a claim that legislation increasing the minimum wage is unnecessary.
    2) There is internal “debate,” within the Democratic party, about whether they should even support a bill which (if passed) would increase the minimum wage. That’s also not something that Republicans (or Trump) could or would prevent.
    3) There are many ordinary people (not politicians) who like progressive policies like this, but you may find it odd that “they” (or at any rate somebody) nonetheless elected Trump and others like him. Short explanation: our elections are really fucked up. And there is a whole lot of misinformation. It’s kind of like Brexit has been happening for as long as anyone can remember, but nobody even knows which entity we’re supposed to be leaving.

  4. jrkrideau says

    How is this happening under Trump?
    Canadian here, but my impression is that outside Washington, Trump is a non-entity. Political battles at the city and state level are another matter and things like minimum wage are, generally speaking, not a Washington issue.

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