Al-Jazeera America: Labor coalition calls for minimum wage higher than $15 per hour

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

Photo courtesy of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee/Flickr

From Al-Jazeera America:

by Ned Resnikoff

As the nationwide campaign for a $15 hourly minimum wage gains traction, some labor groups have set their sights on an even higher number: $16.87 — a demand that could help push the $15 figure closer to the mainstream of American politics.

A new report, published Tuesday, from the Alliance for a Just Society, a coalition of labor organizations, argues that $15 an hour is less than a living wage in most states. A single, childless adult earning $15 per hour would still not be able to make ends meet in 34 states and the District of Columbia, Alliance for a Just Society researcher Allyson Fredericksen found.

She estimated that the true nationwide living wage for a single adult — based on a weighted average of wages in each state — is $16.87 per hour. At the low end of the spectrum, the report found Arkansas to have a living wage of $14.26 an hour; D.C. was had the highest living wage, $21.86 an hour.

The estimates in this report are significantly higher than those of the frequently cited MIT Living Wage Calculator, largely because of Fredericksen’s more expansive assumptions regarding what workers need as a minimum living standard. (MIT assumed that a studio apartment is the minimum housing requirement for a single adult, for example, while Fredericksen assumed a one-bedroom.) 

But the alliance’s demand for a $16.87 minimum may serve a political purpose, by positioning $15 as a compromise.

While unimaginable in most parts of the country until a few years ago, $15 minimum wage legislation has spread across the country. In 2013, SeaTac, Washington, became the first city in the nation to approve a law gradually raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour; Seattle followed in 2014.

Various other cities have stepped up since then, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the first statewide $15 minimum legislation.

Read the full article from Al-Jazeera America.