Boston Globe: Letter to Editor by Holly Sklar, Data back up push for increase

July 14, 2009

Jeff Jacoby (“Minimum-wage folly,’’ Op-ed, July 8) correctly quoted me as saying that minimum wage increases do not increase unemployment, but he failed to mention the empirical research I’ve summarized on the Let Justice Roll website to back that up.

Numerous studies refute the claim of disemployment effects at the local, state, and national level. The period between 1997 and 2007, when the federal minimum wage first topped $5.15, was the longest period in history without a raise. States that raised their minimum wages above the federal level experienced better employment and small business trends than states that did not.

Even after the increase to $7.25, the minimum wage will be lower, adjusted for inflation, than the $7.86 minimum wage of 1956 and much lower than 1968’s $9.83. Perhaps Jacoby thinks today’s workers are worth less than their 1950s and 1960s counterparts. I do not.

The minimum wage was enacted during the Great Depression. President Roosevelt called it “an essential part of economic recovery,’’ putting a needed floor under workers’ wages and stimulating the economy and job creation by increasing consumer purchasing power.

As we see so painfully, an economy built on rising greed and debt rather than living wages is a house of cards.

The writer is senior policy adviser with the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign.

Holly Sklar is also Director of Business for Shared Prosperity.

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