$15 wage becoming a norm as employers struggle to fill jobs
Jul 27, 2021 1 min, 31 secs

It is hardly the official federal minimum wage — at $7.25, that level hasn’t been raised since 2009 — but for many lower-skilled workers, $15 an hour has increasingly become a reality.

For years, and notably in the 2020 presidential race, labor advocates had trumpeted $15 an hour as a wage that would finally allow low-paid workers to afford basic necessities and narrow inequality.

The Fight for $15 labor movement has organized strikes by fast food workers and has lobbied states and cities for higher minimum wages.

The National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-income workers, calculates that 26 million people, or about 16% of workers, have received higher pay because of all the state and local minimum wage increases since 2012, though often to less than $15 an hour.

Historically, higher minimum wages have been found to reduce racial wage gaps.

The $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage has now gone the longest stretch without an increase since it was first introduced in July 2009.

Labor Department data showed that last year, only about 250,000 people — fewer than 0.5% of all workers — earned that wage.

Some economists argue that a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour — more than double the current minimum — will cost jobs.

That’s likely a big reason why a March survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that workers without a college degree have raised the minimum pay they expect from a job by a whopping 26% from a year earlier.

But many predict that when the $300 federal benefit for the unemployed expires in September, schools reopen, and more mothers return to work with their children in school full time, the influx of workers will make it easier to hire and reduce the pressure on employers to raise wages.

Sulentic said pay rates have jumped since the pandemic, with workers that made $10 to $11 an hour last year now getting $15 or $16

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