Current Issues Blog

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Revisiting the Minimum Wage

April 23, 2020 by Scot Wilson

Inequality has been a central issue of the 2020 presidential campaign, with many of the candidates including economic and income equity as major elements of their message.1 The COVID-19 outbreak has also placed economic inequality in the spotlight. While many professionals and white-collar workers are able to work from home, employees in the service industry are either continuing to work or going without pay.2

For additional background on COVID-19 and inequality, see our posts about the virus’ impact on homeless people and the initial impact of the outbreak.

Minimum Wage Map

In this atmosphere created by the outbreak and a presidential election, legislation to raise the federal wage is receiving renewed attention. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, or $2.13 per hour for people who are largely paid in tips.3 However, 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have a higher minimum wage than the federal requirement.4

Legislation regarding COVID-19 is dominating the congressional agenda at present, but the minimum wage debate may again come to the forefront as the public health crisis subsides and the election heats up. One bill, the Raise the Wage Act, has passed in the House of Representatives; you can track its progress in the Senate here.

To foster greater understanding and deliberation, we have created a more detailed explanation of a minimum wage bill and the arguments for and against that bill. For the high school version, click here. For the middle school version, click here.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you or does anyone you know work a minimum wage job?
  2. Do you believe that inequality is a problem in the United States? Why or why not?
  3. Has your town or state created a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum?
  4. Do you believe the federal minimum wage should be increased? Why or why not?
  5. Do you think this issue is better handled nationally or at the state level? Explain your reasoning.



Featured Image Credit: Joe Castro/AAP
[1] Politico: https://www.politico.com/2020-election/candidates-views-on-the-issues/economy/income-inequality/

[2] Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-21/covid-19-divides-u-s-society-by-race-class-and-age

[3] U.S. Department of Labor: https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/faq/esa/flsa/002.htm?_ga=2.135727985.132402296.1587567308-523200938.1587567308

[4] National Conference of State Legislatures: https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx


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