With the new Biden Administration, there is a renewed effort to increase the Federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15.00 per hour for all non-exempt hourly employees. Depending on what state your organization operates in, the state minimum may be lower or higher than the Federal minimum. In Georgia and Wyoming, employers can pay their employees $5.15 per hour unless the employers are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, then the employers must pay $7.25 per hour. There are currently 19 states using the Federal minimum of $7.25 as their state minimum wage per hour. That leaves 29 states (58%) that are paying their employees a minimum wage above the Federal minimum. Fifteen states are paying $11.00 per hour or higher and fourteen states are paying between $8.00 and $10.50 per hour. Washington, D.C. is paying $15.00 per hour as the highest non-state district followed by the State of Washington at $13.69 per hour. However, CA has a law for businesses with 26 or more employees where they must pay their employees starting at $14.00 per hour.
Many companies are moving towards the proposed $15 per hour figure to attract, grow and retain their employee base. However, they are seeking to accomplish these higher wage figure minimums over a period of years vs. over night. Many states have also passed phased in multi-year adjustments over a three to five year period of time. We agree with these approaches as they are good for business and the economy and hope our country and the other states can also head in this direction.
Over the past few years, we have seen several of our clients considering and/or implementing a living wage policy and structure. The “living wage” concept dates back to when the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was established in 1886. The organization pushed for paying all workers (union and non-union) at a level which would maintain an active family with an “American standard of living higher than the 19th century European urban working class.” (Quote from the University of Maryland University Libraries article on Living Wage)
A valuable resource that we have used with our clients that desired a living wage for its employees is the Living Wage Calculator which was first created in 2004 by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts of Institute Technology (MIT). Her model is explained in the next paragraph which was taken from the Living Wage Calculator website.
The living wage model is an alternative measure of basic needs. It is a market-based approach that draws upon geographically specific expenditure data related to a family’s likely minimum food, childcare, health insurance, housing, transportation, and other basic necessities (e.g. clothing, personal care items, etc.) costs. The living wage draws on these cost elements and the rough effects of income and payroll taxes to determine the minimum employment earnings necessary to meet a family’s basic needs while also maintaining self-sufficiency.
There are 12 family compositions in the calculator from One Adult with No Children to Two Adults with Three Children and Both Adults working. The program allows you to select a state and county in the state to see the living wage, poverty wage and minimum wage for all 12 family compositions.
There are many groups around the country that are promoting higher minimum wages that align with the current living wage figures. One such organization is the Fight for $15 which was started in 2012.
We believe that it is important for organizations to set a plan in place to ensure its employees are making at least a living wage if they don’t have one in place already.