The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint-Wages to increase; more money soon

In 1997, Titanic was the top film, the Florida Marlins won the World Series and South Park debuted on Comedy Central. 1997 was also the last time the federal minimum wage was increased. Since then, its value has shrunk to the lowest level since 1947. A proposed $2.10 increase has been approved in the Texas House and will likely pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Bush. Support has come from a variety of sources.

Wal-Mart’s status as one of the nation’s largest employers would seemingly oppose the increase in the minimum wage. After all, an increase in wages of unskilled labor will also increase expenses. The company and its CEO, Lee Scott, have emerged as unlikely allies.

Scott publicly lobbied for raising the federal minimum wage last fall, saying, “The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times.”

“We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks.”

It would be easy for cynics to find a hidden agenda in which Wal-Mart supports the increase merely to fill their coffers with higher sales from better compensated shoppers. Or perhaps Scott is nobly using his position to bring attention to a true problem. Regardless, the statements ring true among Americans.

Economists note that when weighed against a growing inflation, holding the minimum wage at a constant level over the past 10 years has effectively worked as a pay cut. In real dollar terms, the wage of $5.15 buys about 20 percent less than it did in September 1997, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. EPI also estimates that about 15 million workers stand to benefit from the proposed increase to $7.25 by 2009. 

Of the potential beneficiaries that this national policy benefits, EPI estimates 59 percent are women, 16 percent are black and 19 percent are Hispanic. Younger workers are lost in the shuffle, specifically those under age 20, and make up 20 percent.

Whether students work on campus, in a work study program or in an entry level service position, they will benefit from the increase. For some, it might help pay for tuition or offset the constant rise in textbook prices. Every little bit helps.

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