As costs of goods and services rise, focus turns to need for increasing minimum wage

May 26, 2022

By Mirka Cuadros
Staff Writer

The federal minimum wage has lost 21% of its value since its most recent increase in 2009. Now millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet as they earn $7.25 an hour. 

An Ipsos poll released in March found that 80% of Americans believe the current federal minimum wage is insufficient, with two-thirds of Americans supporting an increase to $15 an hour. 

Junior Steven Friedman said he agrees the federal minimum wage should be raised. He said his experience working at Jersey Mike’s in Lyndhurst has made him realize that starting salaries are not high enough. 

“A significant amount of my income comes from tips. A lot of my coworkers heavily depend on those tips, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Friedman said. 

Friedman earns the New Jersey minimum wage of $13. Though there was a $1 increase in January, Friedman said he believes the living wage for Americans should be closer to $15 an hour. 

“If any Congressmen knew the struggle of having to live on such a small wage, especially as a single parent or any other disadvantaged family, more action would be taken,” Friedman said. 

According to the Associated Press, consumer inflation surged to 7.9% over the past year, the highest level since 1982. However, sticker shock at the grocery store is not expected to subside anytime soon, especially not with the inflationary consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Senior Sean Cappiello said the minimum wage should be raised in accordance with rising gas prices and other expenditures that have become more expensive

“The minimum wage is a little low right now given all of the economic turmoil within the country and even outside of it. It’s simply become harder to earn a living wage because prices outpace wage growth,” Cappiello said. 

Despite the current strength of the labor market, wages have barely budged for most U.S. workers. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans’ paychecks are bigger than 40 years ago,but their purchasing power has barely budged. 

“It’s also going to be rough for unskilled workers or those without a degree who typically earn minimum wage,” Cappiello said. “Inflation is going to devastate them.” 

Historically marginalized populations like people of color are especially impacted by low wages. About 46% of all Hispanic and Black workers earn less than $15 compared to 26% of white workers.

History and economics teacher Mr. Newman said the decision to increase the minimum wage is complex.

“While many people think this would help marginalized people, it also has the potential to hurt in the long run,” Newman said. “While more money could be made, prices on all products could go up, which is an obvious negative.”

“With minimum wage increases, there should be an increase in worker productivity.”

Senior Tenzin Pelsang said raising the minimum wage would help revitalize the economy, which is still reeling from the stunning collapse of economic activity during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“Raising the minimum wage would put extra dollars in the pockets of millions of working families who are more likely than any other income group to spend any extra earnings immediately on previously unaffordable basic needs or services. The higher consumer spending should help the economy,” Pelsang said.

He said employers could also benefit from higher minimum wages. 

“With minimum wage increases, there should be an increase in worker productivity,” Pelsang said. “Employees will be less distracted by whether they have enough money to pay this month’s rent.” 

Junior Henry Pinto said raising the minimum wage would stimulate the economy.

“Raising the minimum wage would increase some price tags, increasing spending but also increasing the amount of people who want to work in order to afford these things. There [are] so many points to see this from,” Pinto said.

He said regardless of one’s opinion about wages and inflation, it is always going to be a relevant issue.

“t’s going to impact people like you and me. Raising the minimum wage is probably the best thing the government can do to protect us,” said Pinto.

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