Minimum wage at $15 an hour: Would it help or hurt?
Minimum wage: Residents of SeaTac, Wash., will vote on hiking the minimum wage in November. At issue is whether a higher minimum wage would dim job prospects for young and unskilled workers.
Should the minimum wage go up to $15 an hour? That’s the question that’s suddenly in play in the Seattle area.
Residents of SeaTac, the city that's home to the Seattle-Tacoma airport, will have a ballot vote on that idea this November. And others in the region, from venture capitalist Nick Hanauer to Seattle politicians, are backing wider moves to boost bottom-rung pay.
If $15 sounds high, it's because it is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The debate in Seattle is being waged against a backdrop of national anxiety about jobs and incomes. Earnings for middle-income families, adjusted for inflation, are about where they were in 1989, according to tracking by the Census Bureau.
And for low-wage households, those in the bottom 10 percent, real incomes today are below the low-wage levels in 1978.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are calling for a hike in the nationwide minimum wage, saying it will help keep the American dream of rising prosperity alive for working families.
What would a $15 minimum do?
If someone has a typical job, roughly 34 hours per week, that translates into annual income of $26,520, compared with about $16,250 for the Washington State minimum, or about $12,800 at the federal minimum.
The jump, supporters say, would mean that even low-wage jobs could be living-wage jobs.