Today’s essay comes from Robert Dudgeon who is attending Northern Essex Comm. College perusing a degree in political science. Robert’s mother, Tracy, is a member of the Professional Firefighters of NH Local #4104. Robert took First Place in the NH AFL-CIO Scholarship contest.
Raising the NH Minimum Wage Would Strengthen The NH Advantage
By Robert Dudgeon (titled by NHLN editor)
Why is the minimum wage important, one may ask? It’s only a starter wage, a law that doesn’t affect many workers, right? Think again. 20% of working teenagers, 19% of food-service workers, and 4.3% of all workers in the US (3.3 million people) earn the minimum wage, which is currently $7.25/ hour . The minimum wage is a big deal. It is the lowest rate that a worker can sell their labor for, the law that shows people at the bottom of the economic ladder how much their labor is worth and saves them from working for pennies while they try to climb the ladder. Many critics of the minimum wage don’t understand how impossible it is to live on it. When told that it’s impossible to live on the minimum wage, those critics will start explaining how people are supposed to get more education to move up out of minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that you can’t afford an education while earning the minimum wage. Finally, they will argue that raising the minimum wage will destroy all of the minimum wage jobs, while ignoring the fact that minimum wage jobs continue to exist after numerous minimum wage hikes since the original 25 cents/ hour in 1938. Since the current minimum wage is not a living wage, since working for the current minimum wage will not pay for your education, and since minimum wage hikes do not destroy jobs, I support enacting a NH State minimum wage that goes up in 3 steps ($8.20 in 2014, $9.15 in 2015, $10.10 in 2016) to $10.10/ hour by 2016 and is indexed to inflation to allow for future cost-of-living increases. My proposal is in line with a national campaign to raise the minimum wage, which is supported by President Obama and 600+ economists .
Considering the past minimum wage of $7.25/ hour, $10.10 sounds too high, but when compared to New Hampshire’s high cost of living, it’s just right. When one uses the MIT Living Calculator, a free online finance tool, to find the living cost in NH, the living wage needed to match the cost of living in NH is $9.68 for the whole state, with pricey areas such as Hillsborough County and Rockingham County costing $10.07 and $10.15 to live in . The $9/ hour wage proposed by some moderates will just not make the cut, but $10.10 will allow low-income workers the chance to pay all of their bills on time.
Creating a state minimum wage will immediately make a huge difference for Granite State families on the brink of poverty. 77,000 workers making under $10.10/ hour and 36,000 workers who earn more than $10.10 would all see raises as a result of the new state minimum wage . Those who make minimum wage working full-time will see an extra $114 dollars in their paycheck every week [my calculations], which would immediately be spent on gas, food, or other expenses that would otherwise be limited. 12% of New Hampshire children live in families with at least one parent who would earn more from the new state minimum wage , which means 1 out of 8 children will have better medical care, eat healthier food, and have a more stable family. 59% of the workers who would see raises are women, and 21% of all working women in New Hampshire would earn more money, which would make the state minimum wage a massive gain for womens’ equal pay . 12% of all workers aged 55+ would get a pay raise, which makes the proposed state minimum wage an excellent way to contribute to comfortable retirements for our senior citizens . 47% of the workers getting raises would be from families making less than $60,000/ year (low-income families), and 42% of all workers from families making less than $20,000/ year would get raises, making the new minimum wage a targeted method of eliminating extreme poverty . The facts show that a $10.10 state minimum wage would improve the financial and personal well-being of traditionally insecure New Hampshire residents, including children in low-income families, the elderly, and women.
Everyone can agree that education is the key to a better job, more pay, and a happier life. Nearly every one of my fellow students was pushed to go to college after we graduated from Pinkerton Academy (Derry, NH), and since most of our parents couldn’t pay our tuition bills, we all found summer jobs and hoped that we could save up enough money to pay for college tuition like our parents and grandparents said they did. However, once the summer ended, most of friends (and myself) had to take on heavy student loans to pay for school when we found out that minimum wage paid nowhere near enough to finance a college education. If you’re a college student lucky enough to have a job at minimum wage for 40 hours/ week during the summer and 20 hours/ week during the school year, you earn ~ $9,500/ year [my calculations], which allows you to attend community college for your first 2 years, but not to attend UNH, which runs ~$16,500/ year for in-state tuition . A couple of my friends couldn’t get parents to co-sign on loans, and they’re working menial jobs until they can afford college. The proposed state minimum wage law would make this situation more workable by increasing the pay for the aforementioned job to ~$13,300/ year, and by boosting pay for low-income families, could allow more low-income students to go straight to college while working to pay most of their bills. Parents could assist with extra funds for the last piece in the affordability puzzle. A whopping 84% of working teenagers would benefit directly or indirectly from the new wage, and the larger economy would benefit from more young people getting a college education without crushing student loan debt.
Finally, there is the question of how many jobs will be available after the proposed minimum wage hike is passed. Many opponents of minimum wage hikes like to predict that massive layoffs will commence once the pen hits the paper and that small businesses will become non-existent, just as they also predicted when child labor was banned, and when the 40-hour workweek was created, when the EPA was created, and several other times. They simply ignore two large factors that will soften the blow of increased labor costs to businesses. First, increased consumer demand will result from the workers spending their new raises, which will increase business and give businesses enough extra money to retain their workers. The Economic Policy Institute, the only think tank that has done major research into the wage hike, predicts that New Hampshire will gain 400 full-time jobs from the increase demand created by the new state minimum wage. This is a very modest gain due to the fact that New Hampshire already has lower unemployment (4.4% in June 2014) than the rest of the country (6.2% in June 2014). Also, businesses will pay less in taxes to finance the government assistance programs that low-wage workers rely on when they pay them living wages.
That is the case for raising the minimum wage to $10.10. Nobody knows the exact reason that the federal minimum wage has stagnated. It could have been declining union membership rates that caused labor to lose political power. It could have been strong opponents crying wolf about proposed increases. Regardless of what the federal government will do, New Hampshire must act in its own self-interest and enact a state minimum wage to create a living wage for at-risk groups and families, to allow students the chance to work hard and improve their skills through college, and to create a better climate for business in the Granite State.
1. “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013.” BLS Reports (n.d.): n. pag. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 2014. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.
2. “College Costs: Find out How Much College Costs.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .
3. Cooper, David. “Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Lift Wages for Millions and Provide a Modest Economic Boost.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.epi.org/publication/raising-federal-minimum-wage-to-1010/>.
4. Glasmeier, Amy K. Counties and Places in New Hampshire. Living Wage Calculator. MIT, n.d. Web. 08 Aug. 2014. .
5. “Local Area Unemployment Statistics Home Page.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2014. <http://www.bls.gov/lau/>.
6. “Over 600 Economists Sign Letter In Support of $10.10 Minimum Wage: Economist Statement on the Federal Minimum Wage.” Economic Policy Institute. Economic Policy Institute, Jan. 2014. Web. 08 Aug. 2014.