Commentary

Editorial: North Carolinians deserve a raise in 2018

The lead editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record does a fine job of explaining why North Carolina should join most of the rest of the country by raising its minimum wage ASAP. Here’s the N&R:

“On New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 18 states raised their minimum wages. Two more will raise them in July.

North Carolina is not one of them.

The Tar Heel state has chosen to hew to the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Which is higher than it used to be. But not nearly high enough. The minimum wage in this state has not budged since July 2009.

So, even as they obsess over corporate tax cuts, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state legislature won’t touch higher minimum wages with a 150-foot pole. They say companies won’t relocate here if wages rise and that existing companies will cut jobs or go out of business altogether because they can’t afford to pay more….

There are two arguments for paying salaries that meet the bare minimums for decency.

One is a moral argument — that it’s wrong to pay workers less than enough to cover such basic necessities as food and shelter. A full-time minimum wage worker in North Carolina makes an annual salary below the federal poverty level. In this state 38,000 workers make the federal minimum wage. Another 52,000 make less than $7.25 an hour because they work for restaurants and rely on tips for a large share of their pay.

Taking inflation into account, the best time to be making the minimum wage was in 1968, when it was the equivalent of $11.18 an hour in 2017 dollars. Those workers have been losing ground ever since. At the same time, the average pay for the nation’s top corporate executives has doubled. According to a 2016 study by the AFL-CIO, top executives for S&P 500 companies out-earned their nonsupervisory workers by a ratio of 347 to 1….

Also, as a practical matter, a higher minimum wage can benefit the broader society, at least indirectly.

It can help ease the grip of poverty on the working poor. This, in turn, can create positive ripples in the social services and health care costs it reduces and possibly even in lower crime rates. Further, it might help parents who are forced to work multiple jobs afford the time to be more involved in and supportive of their children’s education….

As for that “job-killing” bugaboo, the vast majority of studies of the 31 states that have raised minimum wages have found that modest increases have had generally little negative impact either on employment or hours worked.

Still, to hear some tell it, raising the minimum wage is not only destructive, it’s downright unpatriotic. Seriously?

What could be more American than to expect an honest hour’s pay for an honest hour’s work?”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

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