White House: Minimum wage hike would help 89,300 in R.I.

As many as 89,300 Rhode Islanders could be affected by an increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25 an hour, according to a fact sheet released by the White House on Wednesday. More

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public policy

White House: Minimum wage hike would help 89,300 in R.I.

COURTESY WHITE HOUSE
THE WHITE HOUSE issued a fact sheet on Wednesday indicating that 28 million workers in the U.S., including 89,300 in Rhode Island, could benefit from an increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The current state minimum wage in Rhode Island is $7.75 an hour, 50 cents higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
Posted 3/20/14

(Updated, April 28, 10:24 a.m.)

WASHINGTON – As many as 89,300 Rhode Islanders could be affected by an increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from the current $7.25 an hour, according to a fact sheet released by the White House on Wednesday.

The release was issued in support of Senate bill S.460 and House bill H.R.1010, collectively known as the “Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013” that was introduced by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) last year.

The bill, currently in committee, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour within two years, and would also index the minimum wage to inflation, so that as prices rise, so would the minimum wage.

“The minimum wage is a critical tool for ensuring that hard work is rewarded with fair pay, but its real value has been allowed to erode substantially despite decades of economic growth,” the White House release stated.

Last month, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order that raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.

Since 1950, real per capita GDP has increased 246 percent and labor productivity has grown 278 percent, the White House said, but the minimum wage’s real value (adjusted for inflation) has dropped.

At its peak in 1968, the minimum wage was valued at 53 percent of the average wage, or $9.25 in 2012 dollars according to an Economic Policy Institute study conducted last year. Forty-four years later, in 2012, the minimum wage of $7.25 was worth $2 less than the 1968 equivalent and equivalent to 37 percent of that year’s average wage.

This year the value of the minimum wage is projected to drop another 1.7 percent, the White House said, which represents nearly $250 for a full-time worker.

Under the Harkin-Miller proposal, more than 28 million workers nationwide (including 89,300 in Rhode Island) could see their wages increase, the White House said, 46 percent of which are families with annual income of less than $35,000. The release indicated that the change could lift as many as 2 million people out of poverty.

In Rhode Island, where the state minimum wage rose to $8 an hour on Jan. 1 this year, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, R.I. General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo and Clay Pell have advocated raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republican candidates Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Ken Block have opposed raising the wage.

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