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Today, on the three-year anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage, a broad coalition of groups and activists across the country will call for a realistic raise for the lowest-income earners.

Currently, the federal minimum wage stands at a low $7.25, and North Carolina tracks this federal standard. The minimum wage used to be a much more realistic wage standard – after its creation in 1938, the value rose steadily until reaching a high point in 1968. Since that time, however, the minimum wage’s value has steadily eroded as Congress has failed to correct for inflation over time. If properly adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage would be $10.55 today.

While the minimum wage hasn’t increased in the last three years, the prices of basic goods certainly have. As NELP’s chart below illustrates, the price of tuition, food, gas and utilities have steadily climbed while the value of the minimum wage has not. $7.25 translates to roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time worker while a conservative measure of actual family costs for one adult and one child in North Carolina requires an income of more than twice this amount.

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The North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Council of Churches, the NC AFL-CIO, and NC MomsRising held a press conference this morning in support of restaurant workers across the country who are being undervalued and underpaid for their work. The chosen date – 2/13 – intends to draw attention to the low $2.13 sub-minimum wage for restaurant workers.

The groups noted that the restaurant industry is growing in North Carolina, with food service occupations projected to have one of the highest growth rates in the state over the next decade. Yet occupations associated with food service are among the lowest paid in the state, and offer few employment benefits including health insurance and paid sick days.

The current federal and North Carolina tipped minimum wage is just $2.13. Employers can pay workers the lowest, sub-minimum wage as long as the $2.13 wage plus tips is equal to $7.25 – the binding state and federal minimum wage – over the course of the workweek. Over time, the gap between the sub-minimum wage and minimum wage has increased, with workers currently expected to make up more than two-thirds of their hourly pay through tips.

You can read more sobering details on the oft-ignored issue by checking out this new brief from the NC Justice Center entitled “Tipping the scales toward fair wages:  The $2.13 Sub-minimum Wage Reduces the Value of Hard Workin the Food Service Industry.”

Watch video highlights of the event below: