Here’s Why the $15 Minimum Wage Has Gained So Much Support

The New York Times reports today that the $15 minimum wage, once a “fringe idea,” is now becoming mainstream. The article attributes this to pressure from labor activists, and that certainly has some truth to it. But I suspect that good ol’ inflation is the bigger culprit:

Back when the $15 minimum wage started to make waves, the median wage for all workers was about . . . $15. This means that a $15 minimum wage represented 98 percent of the median national hourly wage. At no point in history has the minimum wage been anywhere near that high.

Today, however, $15 per hour represents about 73 percent of the median national wage. That’s still high by historical standards, but not unheard of. And if you phase it in, as most plans do, it will represent something like 60-70 percent of the median national wage by the time it comes into full effect.

These numbers vary depending on location (wages are higher in cities than in rural areas) and by how you calculate median hourly wages. But the basic story remains the same: over the past decade $15 per hour has been devalued to a number that’s much more acceptable to employers. That’s the underlying tailwind that’s helped labor activists along.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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