The best argument for a mandated minimum wage is that it adds our weight in support of our most powerless neighbors. Few people have as little leverage as do workers in low-paying jobs. Comedian Chris Rock observes correctly that without a mandated minimum wage there are plenty of employers who would pay less or nothing. Some people, Rock says, would end up working all week for Spam.
Right now, a St. Louisan — a single parent supporting a family, a second wage-earner keeping his family above the poverty line, or a middle class kid saving money for college makes $10,712 a year working (all day/every week) for the minimum wage.
For all of those St. Louisans, the money they earn is important. In the many impoverished households in the City, a mandated minimum wage helps provide more of the basic necessities. But even in more affluent households, the minimum wage earner often provides a vital component of her family’s income. For these people, $10,712 is not enough of an opportunity to improve their lives.
Missouri’s current minimum wage law, unlike Illinois’, ties the state’s mandated wage floor to federal levels. And the federal government last raised the rate in 1997.
I support an increase in the minimum wage — of either the federal rate or of the state’s. Everyone should have the opportunity to earn a decent wage.