Minimum wage increase cannot be business-focused

On April 14, minimum wage workers in Chicago and nationwide gathered to advocate for a $15 minimum wage, as reported April 18 by The Chronicle. 

The Fight for 15 movement, as it is called, has gained traction throughout the labor movement, and states such as California and New York have adopted plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 over a number of years.

Chicago’s minimum wage is set to increase from $10 to $10.50 on July 1 as part of a plan to raise the minimum wage to $13 by July 2019, according to the City of Chicago’s website.

While the city’s plan shows a commitment to increasing wages to a livable level for minimum wage workers in a city with a high cost of living, workers continue to advocate for increasing the minimum wage to $15 and with good reason. 

Minimum wage jobs are frequently stereotyped as jobs for teenagers and students to get extra money, but many adults rely on minimum wage jobs as their main source of income and support for their families. 

As a matter of fact, approximately 89 percent of people who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are over the age of 20, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The reality of who holds minimum wage jobs makes increasing the minimum wage all the more important because the increase would help the average American family, not just the high school students trying to acquire extra money.

While businesses and government officials might argue that raising the minimum wage may burden employers, maintaining such a low minimum wage is a heavier burden for employees, and the nation as a whole, to bear.

A $15 minimum wage should be the goal nationwide, but realistic plans involving incremental increases over a specific timeline would best achieve that goal. 

In California, the minimum wage will reach $15 per hour for all workers by 2023, according to an April 4 Washington Post article.

By 2021, the minimum wage will be increased to $15 in New York for all workers using a plan that increases the minimum wage for different jobs at different rates until all workers reach $15 per hour, according to an April 4 press release on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s website.

Plans like California’s allow companies to adjust to the wage increases gradually without having to take drastic measures such as firing employees to make up for increased wages. 

Our inadequate minimum wage is another way in which the U.S. has failed as a world power to set the international standard for social issues. 

However, Seattle’s yearlong experience of implementing $15 minimum wage plan has been successful, proving such plans could be successfully implemented on a federal level.

As the next step in a plan implemented a year ago, Seattle increased its minimum wage to $13 in January 2016, according to a March 31 Seattle Times article.

In the same article, Chris Maykut, founder and owner of the three Chaco Canyon Organic Cafes in Seattle, said: “The minimum-wage increase has had a huge impact on my small business, but that’s not the point. It’s good for the community and will ideally lay the foundation for national policy.”

Accepting and even advocating for a higher minimum wage might not be the easiest challenge for businesses. However, it is far more realistic for a business to figure out a way to bring about a minimum wage increase than it is for people across the country to overcome poverty on current minimum wage salaries.