|The United States House of
Representatives voted last week to raise the minimum wage to
$7.25 per hour, a move that will help increase the standard of
living for millions of low-wage Americans, including and
especially single people.
The last increase in the minimum wage occurred in 1997, after
President Bill Clinton prodded Republicans to approve it.
In the ensuring years that Republicans have controlled Congress,
they have successfully opposed all efforts to increase the
minimum wage any further.
Some 82 Republicans in the House
broke ranks with their party to vote with Democrats in
supporting a hike this year, causing the measure to pass by a 3
to 1 margin. The final vote was 315 to 116.
Results of a recent public
opinion survey may have given these Republican politicians an
incentive to back the current minimum wage bill.
An Associated Press -- AOL News
poll conducted two weeks ago showed an overwhelming 80 percent
of Americans supporting the Democrats proposal to hike the
current minimum wage of $5.15 by $2.10 in phases over the next
two years. A large majority of Republican voters, about 65
percent, support the measure.
Perhaps mindful of public opinion
on this issue, legislators and governors in
several states have
passed statewide minimum wage hikes in their own jurisdictions.
A recent Associated Press story reported that seven states --
Arizona, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, North
Carolina and Pennsylvania -- have increased the minimum
wage effective January 1, 2007.
New Yorkers, for example, will
now be paid at least $7.15 for their labor. California and
Massachusetts minimum-wage workers will see earnings as high as
$7.50 per hour.
Last November, voters in several
states voted in favor of ballot initiatives mandating minimum
wage increases. Such measures were approved by voters in
Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio.
What is noteworthy about these
ballot measures -- and what distinguishes them from the federal
bill -- is a provision linking future increases in the minimum
wage to the rate of inflation, so that voters would not have to
respond to a new a ballot measure every few years.
Some conservatives offer two
arguments in opposition to an increases in the federal minimum
The website of the John Birch
Society, for example, published a recent commentary arguing that
an increased minimum wage requirement will hurt small businesses
and cause them to lay off workers. The commentary also
suggested that an increase was unwarranted because it would
mostly help young single people rather than families living in
The federal bill will have the
greatest impact in helping the nearly 2 million workers who have
been making $5.15 per hour or less. "Most of these workers
are young--under 25 years old--and tend to be women, unmarried,
from minority backgrounds and typically work part-time hours,"
according to Forbes.com.
So, yes, it is true that a
federal minimum wage hike will help single people. So
what? Don't single people deserve decent compensation for
As for the argument that a
minimum wage hike will hurt businesses and cost jobs, many
economists say that it not true.
According to the analysis by
Forbes, more than 650 economists--including five winners of the
Nobel Price for economics--predict that a wage hike would have
little to no effect on employment. In other words, there
will be no significant loss of jobs.
As for hurting businesses, Forbes
says "the hike also won't represent much of a change, since 28
states have already adopted minimum-wage increases since 1997,
and so few workers make $5.15 per hour or less."
So unless there is a presidential
veto, or unless conservatives in the Senate derail the bill by
linking it to tax cuts for businesses, it looks like millions of
low income workers -- whether single or married, with or without
dependents -- will be getting a long overdue pay hike in the
Unmarried America 2006
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and