The lowest wage allowable by federal law is $7.25 an hour. At that rate, an employee working full time would take home-before taxes-$290 a week, $1160 a month, and $13,920 a year. The Federal Poverty level for a single individual in 2013 was $11,490/year. For a family of 2, it was $15,410/year. That’s not a significant amount of money. People making $6, $7, or $8 an hour can benefit from wage increases. Depending on the amount of the raise, it could lift people out of poverty-a condition that no human should ever be in. Raising the minimum wage also spurs economic growth (which makes sense; if people have more money, they’re likely to spend it; if they have enough money to pay for essentials, they’ll be more likely to spend extra on luxuries). If the minimum wage had increased with inflation, it would currently be $10.90/hour. Heck, it if the minimum wage had increased along with worker productivity since 1968, it would be around $21.72/hour). Sadly, there are politicians (a great many of them Republicans or members of the Tea Party, as well as Libertarians) who oppose hikes in the minimum wage (some-looking at you Ron Paul-think the minimum wage should be abolished; fuck you very much for that). Too often, they’re thinking of corporations (and in the process display a callous indifference to the plight of minimum wage workers across the country). They still think that if you save corporations money, or give them tax breaks that this will help the economy by creating jobs. This reality challenged idea, aka trickle down economics, has yet to bear any fruit.
Thankfully there are people who advocate a raise in the minimum wage. There are even people who make sacrifices so that others can see a pay increase. One such person is the interim President of Kentucky State University:
Two dozen low-wage workers at Kentucky State University (KSU) will get a raise to $10.25 an hour after the school’s interim president asked for his pay to be cut by about 25 percent, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. The workers currently make as little as $7.25 an hour, the lowest wage allowed by federal law.
“This is not a publicity stunt,” interim KSU president Raymond Burse told the newspaper. “You don’t give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people,” he said. Burse, who retired from an executive position at General Electric in 2012, pointed out that “I don’t need to work” and “the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale.”
Burse will only be KSU president for the next year while the school’s board searches for a long-term replacement for Mary Evans Sias, who retired at the end of June after 10 years as president. He was set to be paid just under $350,000 and asked that $90,000 of that be spent on staff wages instead. There is no guarantee that the workers’ wages will remain at $10.25 under future regimes should the school’s board of regents decide it needs that money for other purposes.
As I wrote elsewhere:
“I would like to see more of this. He did it out of compassion for others, and I think that’s wonderful. I’m sure Burse could use that $90K, but low wage workers *need* the extra money in a way I doubt he does. At $7.25/hr and an average 40 hour work week, those workers would take home roughly $13,920/year. Raising their wage to $10.25/hr means they’ll take home an additional $120/week, almost $500 extra dollars a month, and slightly more than $19K/year. That’s pretty substantial in my book. That can raise people out of poverty.
He says he didn’t do this to shame other school presidents, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have a problem with him doing so. Instead of $350K, he’s going to be making around $260K. I’d kill (not literally, mind you; that whole ‘valuing human life’ thing would prevent me from even thinking of taking a life) to make half that amount ($130K), a third ($85K), a quarter ($65K), or even a fifth ($52K).”
It may be shocking to advocate for people to not take home more money, but I think people who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year are less in need of a raise than people who are struggling to make $15,000/year.