04 Dec

A shameful record

Found via the we move to canada blog:

On Dec. 2, we break the record for the longest period without a raise since the minimum wage was established in 1938. The prior record of nine years and three months lasted from Jan. 1, 1981 until the minimum wage increase on Apr. 1, 1990.

(That was during my minimum wage working years. I remember quite clearly. $3.35 an hour and we were supposed to be thrilled when we got a 10 cent increase after 6 months.)

The article points out that the current federal minimum wage of $5.15 is less than the 1950 minimum wage, once you convert it to 2006 dollars. (Washington state, at least, has a much higher minimum wage. And yet, the sky hasn’t fallen. Hmm.) And that it takes almost two current minimum wage workers to match the earning power of one in 1968.

And note this — “The share of national income going to wages and salaries is at the lowest level since 1929 while the share going to after-tax corporate profits is at the highest.”

It is shameful. I can’t imagine trying to live on $5.15 an hour. It was hard enough on $3.35 in 1986, but $3.35 could get you a lot more in Seattle in those days than $5.15 can now.

4 thoughts on “A shameful record

  1. You just reminded me that when I was making $3.35 an hour at the Gap in 1987, gas was like 87 cents a gallon or something. Just the realization that gas has increased more than wages is startling. Never mind all the other costs of living. I’m far more bothered by the corporate profits statistic. My mom is a small business owner and even a small rise in minimum wage affects her profits drastically. And that’s living in the relatively cheap South.

  2. Hey, thanks for the link.

    An excellent read on this subject is “The Working Poor” by David K. Shipler. It makes a great companion to Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickled and Dimed” (which should be required reading in the US, IMO).

    Take care.

  3. Washington and Oregon have the highest minimum wages in the US, and in Washington at least, the economy is currently pretty good. (I have no idea what Oregon’s economy is like.)

    I remember quitting a $3.35 job to move to a $4.25 job and being pretty happy. (Until I started the new job, which was awful.) I guess $40 extra per week was pretty good when I didn’t own a car, and paid $175/month for rent.

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