By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Last week, the city of Seattle made big national news.
The city’s nine-member Council voted unanimously to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.
This is more than double the federal minimum, and pushes Seattle to the forefront of urban efforts to address income inequality.
Public opinion polls show that a minimum wage hike has broad support.
In fact, two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll conducted in February.
The poll found that 62 percent of independents and 86 percent of Democrats supported such an increase, while 54 percent of Republicans surveyed said they opposed it.
Surprisingly, there now appears to be growing support for raising the minimum wage, granted from some rather unlikely sources.
The 2012 Republican contender for the White House, Mitt Romney, has gone on record as having advocated that “Republicans should hike the minimum wage.”
Romney has voiced similar ideas in the past, saying on the campaign trail in 2012 that he thought the minimum wage should be indexed to inflation so that it automatically rises with inflation.
While other 2012 presidential contenders, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and ex-Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have also indicated that they supported a smaller minimum wage increase.
Romney, Santorum and Pawlenty say that by refusing to publicly advocate a minimum wage increase, congressional Republicans are ceding the national dialogue to Democrats on an issue that consistently draws majority support in polls.
Minimum wage employers, like McDonald’s and Walmart, have long contended that raising the minimum wage would “absolutely” kill jobs and hurt businesses.
There is little evidence, however, that raising the minimum wage kills jobs.
Many studies have shown that raising the wage doesn’t have a negative impact on job growth.
In fact, it can actually help businesses by raising productivity, lowering turnover, and increasing demand for products from workers with more money in their pockets.
An analysis of state minimum wage increases found that those with a raise had above average job growth.
There are also real-life examples of companies that manage to pay higher wages and stay in business.
In the fast food sector, the In-N-Out burger chain starts employees at $10.50 an hour. At Dicks Drive-In in Seattle, workers start at $10 per hour. Moo Cluck Moo, a burger chain in Detroit, pays $12 an hour.
In retail, Walmart competitor Costco pays $21.96 an hour on average, while Idaho-based WinCo pays more than $11 an hour with good benefits while beating Walmart prices.
In truth, every time the minimum wage is raised the economy does better universally.
As I have said on more than one occasion, raising the minimum wage is a “no-brainer.”
Municipalities and states around the country should follow Seattle’s lead.
Truth be told, if the minimum wage had tracked workers’ rising productivity, the current minimum wage would be closer to $22 an hour.