Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Minimum Wage

An Eye-Opening Reminder of Where We Fall Short for Women and Families

On Tuesday, several of us at the National Women’s Law Center had the privilege of meeting with a group of 11 female political leaders from Latin America, hailing from Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela.

Staff from the Law Center spoke about our efforts to advance public policies that work for women and families, and women from the delegation asked poignant questions about how we advance that mission, and the successes and challenges we face in those efforts.

Part of what was so striking about the conversation was noticing what facts about the state of public policy for women in the U.S. most shocked our visitors. Explaining the recent Hobby Lobby decision caused jaws to drop when the group realized they had heard the English to Spanish translation correctly: the Court actually ruled in favor of an employer’s right to impose its religious beliefs on the health care decisions of its employees. More shocked faces accompanied learning that the U.S. federal minimum wage still sits at a puny $7.25 per hour—and it doesn’t even apply to all workers. And again, disbelieving inquiries followed hearing that an employer has no obligation to guarantee its workers a minimum number of hours, but can instead send workers home without pay if business is slow—even if an employee has traveled long distances or arranged child care to be at work. Read more »

Not Waiting Around: States and Businesses Take Action to Raise Workers’ Wages

In case you missed it, Kentucky State University interim president Raymond Burse announced this week that he’ll take a pay cut of $90,000 to subsidize raises for those workers on the university campus who make very low wages. The college president’s move will ensure that the university’s hourly workers make at least $10.25 per hour. Approximately 24 workers on the campus will see a raise, including some workers who had been making the current federal minimum wage of just $7.25. By absorbing the pay cut himself, Burse saved the institution from making a difficult decision like deducting funds from other university program areas, while guaranteeing that the hardworking employees of Kentucky State University receive a raise they deserve – and very much need. Read more »

The White House’s Champions of Change: A Call to Eliminate the Tipped Minimum Wage

On Tuesday, July 22, the White House celebrated the Raise the Wage Champions of Change, a group of policymakers, workers, and business owners fighting for an increase in the minimum wage. Read more »

The Business Case For A Higher Minimum Wage

Opponents of raising the minimum wage say it’s a job killer that will cause businesses to fail and reduce employment overall. Read more »

5 Years Too Long: Why It's Time to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage

The last time the federal minimum wage went up was on July 24, 2009, when it reached its current level of $7.25 per hour. It might seem like regular adjustments would be the norm (ever heard of inflation, anyone?), but amazingly, legislation to raise the minimum wage has been passed only three times in the past 30 years. And even when those rare increases happen, the minimum wage steadily loses its purchasing power since it is not tied to inflation, leaving low-income workers struggling to make up the difference.

A lot has changed since American families last saw an increase in the federal minimum wage five years ago — from gas prices to college tuition — but  one thing has stayed the same: workers still deserve a meaningful raise that will help lift families out of poverty and keep up when the cost of living rises.  And this is an especially important issue for women, who make up about two-thirds of minimum wage workers. 

In honor of the 5-year anniversary, we debunk 5 minimum wage myths with the facts. Read more »

Can Your Family Live on the Minimum Wage? Mine Can't.

Today is July 24th – five years to the day since the federal minimum wage last went up. At $7.25 per hour, the current minimum wage typically leaves a full-time worker with just $77 per week to spend after accounting for housing costs and taxes. To shed light on what that kind of income really means for working families, advocates across the country, including NWLC, are promoting the “Live the Wage” challenge. From today through July 30, participants in the challenge will attempt to live on a minimum wage budget – just $77 to cover food, transportation, and other expenses for the entire week.

The Live the Wage challenge presents an important opportunity to grasp the daily struggles facing low-wage workers, and I hope huge numbers participate. But for me, I know taking the challenge means failure on the very first day. That’s because I’m a new mom, just recently back at work, and I have a staggering new expense in my weekly budget: child care. Read more »

The Minimum Wage Goes Up in D.C. and California Today

Good news for minimum wage workers in Washington, D.C. and California—they just got a raise.

In D.C. the minimum wage increased to $9.50 per hour, up from $8.25. It is scheduled to hit $11.50 per hour in July 2016 and increase with inflation after that.

This increase is good news for women, who are about six in ten minimum wage workers in the District. And while $9.50 per hour isn’t nearly enough, a mom with two children who works full-time, year-round for the minimum wage now, finally, makes enough to be above the poverty line.

Unfortunately not all minimum wage workers in D.C. can celebrate today—the cash wage for tipped workers was not raised by in the legislation passed last January, meaning the cash wage for tipped workers in D.C.—about half of whom are women—remains a shockingly low $2.77 per hour. Read more »

Empowerment in the Workplace is Crucial for Workers and Their Families

As witness Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, testified at a U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee hearing this week on “Empowerment in the Workplace,” “An empowered workforce is one that shares fairly in the fruits of its labor.” Unfortunately, government policies have led to trends of inequality over the past decades. 

This is in part because policy has failed to respond to changing realities of the workforce, as Congressman John Delaney stressed in an opening statement. While workplaces are often structured around an outdated model of a two parent household with one breadwinner and one parent home to take care of family responsibilities, this model no longer works for families in the United States. Today, women comprise nearly fifty percent [PDF] of the workforce, and compared with 30 years ago, mothers of young children are almost twice as likely [PDF] to be employed. Additionally, men today report spending more time with their children. More than ever before, workers must balance work duties with meeting the basic needs of their families. Read more »

Race to the Top: States Continue to Set New Standards with Minimum Wage Increases

Don’t Google “state pride tattoos.” There are just too many results; it’s overwhelming. But as my “research” proved, competition among states can manifest itself in some really silly ways. Every once in a while, though, that my-state-is-better-than-yours attitude is well earned.

Take, for example, the number of states vying to establish the country’s highest statewide minimum wage. More than once this year, we’ve read headlines that one state or another has climbed to the top – and it just keeps happening. In March, Connecticut was self-high-fiving during its reign. Earlier this month, Vermont snatched the title. And as of this week, Massachusetts is moving into first place.

The Bay State’s bill, which will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, received final lawmaker approval yesterday, and Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the legislation soon. Tipped workers will also see an increase in their minimum cash wage, which will rise from $2.63 to $3.75. Read more »

Debunking the Myth: Minimum Wage Workers May Not Be Who You Think

I am here to make a confession: I’ve been leading you astray. I didn’t mean to, it was totally unintentional, and we (probably) haven’t even met. Still, my bad.

If you think of the average low-wage worker, you probably think of me. Young, working part-time to help pay for school and gas, plans to change jobs soon. Many people think low-wage jobs are held by teens and young adults who hope to earn a bit of extra pocket money on nights and weekends. And since the age of 15, that has been me. I have worked part-time for that very pocket money in order to subsidize my incredible coffee addiction, buy the newest pair of shoes, and pay for movies and entertainment.

However, the reality of the situation is that minimum wage jobs in America are disproportionally held by adults. Most work full-time. And many have children and families to support. Read more »