Friday, May 24, 2013

Scattered Minimum Wage Laws at the State Level

There was a time when minimum wage workers enjoyed a slight rate increase over the established federal limit. Known simply as the living wage rate, it helped wage earners keep up with the living standards of the state they lived in. But not anymore. Several states have now passed laws prohibiting workers from receiving additional benefits. 

The living wage rate was not restricted to dollar amounts. Some states have moved to restrict extending any employment benefit to hourly workers. Paid leave, vacations and sick time will not be offered to these workers beyond what federal laws mandate. Anyone who has worked a minimum wage job knows how difficult it is to have access to these benefits.

Having each state pass individual laws is understandable, but not when it threatens the poor's standard of living. Workers paid minimum wage live below the poverty line. Many of them wind up relying on federal assistance to make ends meet. By trying to help businesses, states are increasing the burdens of taxpayers and local governments.  

What is transpiring is very similar to the previous  education system we had in place. Every state set its own standard, which eventually led to a broken institution that created generations of students who fell behind their international peers. After all these decades, we have decided that autonomy was not serving our children well and now we're working toward unifying education at a national level. While we must keep standard of living in mind, perhaps a unified wage law at the state level will better protect wage earners. To keep up with increasing prices and other economic factors, an hourly wage can be indexed to inflation and local standard of living to elevate the lives of  those living below the poverty line. Whatever it is, something must give. Allowing states to pass regressive laws does not help us at the local or national levels. 

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