Employees Favor Minimum Wage Increase

The discussion around minimum wage has recently taken off.

A ballot initiative asked New Jersey voters if they would like to increase the state’s minimum wage by a dollar on Election Day. Last year, Governor Christie vetoed this bill. The majority of the public, 61 percent, favored a change to tie future increases of inflation. According to NJ.com, the switch from $7.25 to $8.25 will happen this January.

“I voted ‘yes’ to increase minimum wage earlier this month because it hasn’t been raised in so many years and times have changed,” junior Eric Vitale said. “People can’t live on the current minimum. Increasing it will at least help those people’s situations.”

Last Friday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said conquering a higher minimum wage is “step one” in a speech to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

However, the conversation on minimum wage doesn’t stop in New Jersey. Nationally, unions organize and rally under the common cause to increase minimum wage. Some want only a dollar more, while others push for $15 an hour.

Under $7.25, the national minimum, a full-time worker earns an annual salary of about $15,000, a doubtful number for survival. The current poverty level for a household of just three people, evaluated with the help of the Census Bureau each year, falls just under $20,000.

CBS News blamed the rising cost of housing for the unreasonable cost of living for low-wage workers, making most homes and rent unaffordable.

“My mother works on minimum wage, and it’s not much money at all. Minimum wage, even on a 40-hour work week, interferes with being able to afford to purchase a home or even pay for rent,” Nick Libraro, a freshman, said. “:People have other needs and sometimes things happen at the worst time, especially people on a tight budget.” 

To understand the concept of “living wage,” or rather, how much it really costs to live in different parts of the country, a professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a website-livingwage.mit.edu-that allows users to search for the living wage based upon location. It breaks down costs between family members and total monthly expenses. The engine models the Economic Policy Institute’s metropolitan living wage tool.

“I definitely believe it should be raised. People who work on minimum wage are almost always working jobs that are physically demanding with long hours,” said senior Erika Prinzo.” People in the food industry alone work nights, weekends and holidays. They also are often not collecting any kind of benefits from their employers and have to provide for themselves in that way as well.”

During the annual State of the Union address this year, President Barack Obama mentioned the idea of raising the federal minimum wage. Although that may appear to be too ambitious and ambiguous, The New York Times reported last week that White House officials have said the president advocates for an increase of federal minimum wage to $10.10 under the 2013 Fair Minimum Wage Act.

Sophomore Akilah Gillison has previously worked under minimum wage, including in her current position at Checkers, a fast food chain.

“The current wage is unlivable without a second job or family support. It is almost impossible while attending school,” Gillison said. “Minimum wage is not enough to live off of the way it is now without assistance, especially for those who have a family or wish to start one.”