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Q&A about Obama's push to raise minimum wage

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2014 at 8:09 am •  Published: January 29, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Relatively few Americans — less than 5 percent of hourly workers — toil for the minimum wage today.

Yet President Barack Obama's push to offset decades of inflation by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would ripple through the economy and touch the lives of millions more workers and their families. Republicans say some of those in need would be harmed, not helped.

Here are some questions and answers about Obama's proposal:

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Q: How much is the U.S. minimum wage now?

A: It's $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 per year for full-time work. For a worker supporting a family of two, that falls just below the federal poverty line.

A minimum wage of $10.10 would mean earning about $21,000 per year.

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Q: How many Americans work for minimum wage?

A: About 1.6 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are a smaller share of the workforce than in previous decades.

Another 2 million people are paid even less, because of various exceptions in the law. Many are waiters, bellhops and others whose wages are augmented by tips from customers. Their minimum is lower — $2.13 an hour — and hasn't gone up for more than two decades. Obama supports boosting the minimum for tipped workers to $7.07.

Together, both groups make up 4.7 percent of workers paid by the hour, and even less of the workforce when salaried workers are included.

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Q: Are these the only workers who would get a boost from Obama's plan?

A: No. Millions more people who earn less than $10.10 an hour would get an automatic raise. Many of them work in states that have imposed a minimum wage that's higher than the current federal one.

And some people who already make more than $10.10 would get raises, too, as businesses adjusted their pay scales upward.

Democratic lawmakers pushing for the increase predict it would lead to raises for some 30 million people. Republican opponents counter that it could force companies to reduce hiring or even lay off some workers.

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Q: How many states have a minimum wage higher than the federal one?

A: Twenty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

None is as high as the wage Obama seeks. Washington state's is highest at $9.32 an hour, adjusted annually for inflation. California's minimum wage is set to climb to $10 in 2016.

State lawmakers aren't waiting for a divided Congress to act. Democratic legislators are pushing minimum-wage increases in more than half of the states this year, although several are political longshots.

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