Minimum Wage

$9: The current minimum wage in Mass. (Photo by/ Sarah Nordberg)

$9: The current minimum wage in Mass.
(Photo by/ Sarah Nordberg)

By: Sarah Nordberg

The minimum wage is a hot topic right now in the U.S. People who make minimum wage are unable to live off of that salary, and many are trying to change this culture.

The last time that Congress increased the national minimum wage was five years ago, and it currently stands at $7.25 an hour.  Someone who works full time on this wage makes just $290 a week, leaving them few options for housing, nourishment, and transportation.

“The minimum wage amount now is too low for those who only work five to eight hours a week. I work 15 and a half hours a week and I still think I don’t make enough for my weekly spending as a young adult in the world,” said Attleboro High School (AHS) senior Mary Griswold.

Teens making minimum wage find it difficult to manage their money, which shows how difficult it must be for adults with other responsibilities and dependants to live off of that same wage.

“Even though we [teens] may not need a much higher pay, what about the single parents who only make minimum wage and have to raise multiple kids? It’s not fair for them to struggle day by day and worry about putting food on the table or paying the bills,” said AHS senior James Fahey.

Adults are also happy about the minimum wage increase. “I am happy that the minimum wage is going up. I think that it is important that people who get paid the minimum wage are paid fairly for their hard work,” said AHS math teacher Sarah Faulkner.

Trying to live on the minimum wage is extremely difficult. Politicians, celebrities and others have been participating in the Live the Wage challenge. Participants must go one week spending no more than $77, the average amount of money left over for those living on minimum wage after housing expenses.

In Mass., the current minimum wage is $9 per hour. This means that over the course of a year, full-time workers on the minimum wage are paid $18,720 without any vacation days or sick days. This is below the poverty rate for a family of three ($20,090).

The Mass. rate will go up to $10 per hour in 2016 and $11 per hour in 2017. This will make Mass. the highest rate for minimum wage in the nation.  D.C. currently has the highest minimum wage at $9.50.

Vt. and Conn. currently have the highest wages in New England at $9.15. R.I. is currently the same as Mass. at $9. Maine and N.H. have the lowest wages at $7.50 and $7.25 respectively. This variation causes some workers to find jobs in neighboring states that have a higher rate.

Ga. and Wyo. are tied for having the lowest minimum wage at $5.15 an hour, which is less than the federal minimum wage. S.C., Miss., Tenn., Al., and La. have no minimum wage. In these states, the federal minimum wage ($7.25) prevails, and the state minimum wage (or lack thereof) is more of a political statement. There are 14 states that have minimum wages equal to the federal standard.

While the wage going up is extremely good news, the problem is that those who have earned seniority in their job may not receive an increase when these wages go up. This means that employees who have gained responsibility in their position may be paid the same as those who are just being hired.

“It would be nice if the wage that workers were paid increased in proportion to the wage increase. It’s not fair that some people got a raise and others did not,” said AHS senior Nicole Paquin.

The minimum wage is a problem that will be difficult to fix, but over time it may be more adjusted throughout the country.