It’s hard to imagine now, but it was just about two years ago when the White House first endorsed the idea of a $10.10 minimum wage.
Although a $10.10 minimum wage never took hold nationally, many cities and even some states passed legislation to phase in minimum wages above $10. And President Obama signed an executive order establishing a $10.10 minimum wage for federal contractors.
Before long, advocates of a higher minimum wage set a new target of $15. Backed by the labor unions, the “Fight for 15” campaign has won several victories, most prominently in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles.
New York recently ordered a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to expand coverage to all employees statewide. Meanwhile, Vermont Senator and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently introduced legislation for a $15 minimum wage nationwide.
Given these trends, HR professionals may be wondering: Can the minimum wage go even higher than $15?
Some economists have said the federal minimum wage would be $26 today if it “had risen in step with both inflation and average labor productivity since 1968.”
But recent developments suggest the rapid rise in the minimum wage, even on the local level, may have reached its limit at $15:
- Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of a $12 minimum wage, saying $15 is not realistic.
- Last week, the Berkeley, California, City Council postponed a vote on a proposal to raise the local minimum wage to $19. “I’m in favor of raising the minimum wage,” Mayor Tom Bates said, according to the Contra-Costa Times. “But you also have to realize we need businesses to be in business to pay the workers. We have to look at the goose that lays the egg.”
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently said a $15 minimum wage is not appropriate for the entire country. “Different economies need different levels,” Garcetti said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The cost of living is different and you need to cater to what works for your city.”
- Some of the economists who supported a $10.10 minimum wage do not support a $15 minimum wage because they fear it would result in widespread unemployment.
Although there are no guarantees, it looks like $15.00 will remain the ceiling for several years to come.
Where do you think the minimum wage is headed? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.