If New Hampshire’s lawmakers are “serious about encouraging New Hampshire's economic development, they will consider re-establishing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation,” writes New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie in a column on SeaCoastOnline, a website for several state newspapers.
In 2011, Republican legislators repealed the state’s minimum wage law. Rep. Carol McGuire (R) went so far as to suggest that there should be no wage floor at all, and if an employer wanted to pay $5 an hour, that was just fine with her.
While the federal $7.25 an hour minimum wage applies to New Hampshire, that makes it the lowest minimum wage law in New England, where state laws peg the rate above $7.25 an hour, including $8.60 an hour in Vermont.
There are bills in the legislature that would raise the minimum wage. One would make it $9.25 an hour. Another would set it at $8 an hour and tie annual recalculations to the rate of inflation. Says MacKenzie:
For thousands of Granite Staters living on the edge, the minimum wage determines whether their jobs pay enough to make ends meet. Yet it isn't just workers who have a stake in the minimum wage. The small businesses they patronize and the communities they live in all stand to gain from re-establishing New Hampshire's minimum wage.
He also points out, “Contrary to popular belief, changing the minimum wage will not just impact teenagers and semi-retired people.”
As wages for working families have fallen and breadwinners come to rely on low-wage jobs to support their families, the minimum wage plays an increasingly critical role in determining whether a job gets a family out of poverty or keeps them in it.
MacKenzie also notes that most studies debunk opponents’ claims that raising the minimum wage results in employers cutting back hours or laying off workers.
Ultimately, the debate over the minimum wage comes down to the type of economy that we want. Do we want an economy that relies on subsidizing the employers who pay their workers the least? Or do we want one that recognizes that every worker's toil is worthy of a living wage?
New Hampshire is one of 24 states where legislation to increase the minimum wage has been introduced. There will be a ballot measure in New Jersey later this year to boost the minimum wage and provide for annual increases based on changes to the cost of living.
President Obama has called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour and indexing it. Also Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) are proposing to boost minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Even that, says William Spriggs, AFL-CIO chief economist, wouldn’t bring it to purchasing power level of 1968’s rate.
If the minimum wage was restored to its value in 1968, then today it would stand at $10.58, but, more importantly, if we kept the minimum wage in relation to the average wage, it would be close to $12.00 an hour. We must index the minimum wage to average wages so that all workers are able to benefit from productivity increases.