Recently, you published an op-ed by Jeff Sadow where he argued against raising Louisiana’s minimum wage.
Before addressing Mr. Sadow’s factual inaccuracies, though, it’s important to note that any discussion about raising the minimum wage needs to be about more than just numbers. That discussion also needs to be about values.
Do we, as Louisianans, value ourselves, our families, our friends, and our neighbors enough to make sure that all of us can afford the basics, like food, housing, and health care? Do we value our work enough to ensure that it’s rewarded with a living wage? Do we value economic growth that is shared by all? If so, then we need to do something about it. Raising the minimum wage is an excellent start.
Of course, the facts are a critical part of this discussion as well. According to a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, Louisiana has the highest proportion of full-time workers earning less than $15,000 in the country.
Currently, Louisiana reverts to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which was set back in 2009. Because the federal rate has remained stagnant for so long, many cities, counties, and states have taken the initiative to raise their own minimum wages, including voters in Arkansas and Missouri in the most recent election cycle. That hodgepodge of increases has made it possible for researchers to conduct dozens of comparative studies on the effects of raising the minimum wage.
Their research has shown that raising the minimum wage does not lead to lost jobs. In fact, total job numbers remain steady after a local minimum wage increase. Often, businesses have to hire more workers to accommodate the influx of new spending from customers who suddenly have more money in their pockets.
The most comprehensive of these studies, “The effect of minimum wages on the total number of jobs: Evidence from the United States using a bunching estimator,” was published in 2017. But there are myriad others that support the same conclusions.
As for “spurring automation,” another of Mr. Sadow’s scare tactics; does anyone really believe that the pace of automation is going to slow, with or without higher wages? His assertion that a wage increase will lead to higher prices is similarly misguided. Prices are already going up, and they’re doing so at a much faster pace than wages. Raising the minimum wage would help realign that imbalance.
If paying your workers a living wage means you can’t keep your doors open, then that’s the market telling you that you shouldn’t be in business.
If we really want to start fixing our systemic economic problems, it’s time to invest in our people by raising their pay.
Power Coalition for Equity and Justice & Step Up Louisiana