As housing prices increase across the US, more and more full-time workers are finding themselves unable to even afford basic living accommodations. In many cities across the US, full-time workers are living in their cars, on couches and even on the streets. A minimum wage worker would need to work 2.5 jobs (90 hours a week) just to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most of the US and they would need to work 1.5 jobs (60 hours a week) just to be able to afford half the rent of a 2-bedroom apartment.
Between 1980 and 2007, the federal minimum wage barely doubled from $3.10 to $6.55. In 2008, it got a boost to $7.25 and hasn’t budged since. For more than a decade, the federal minimum wage has hovered far below the cost of living in almost every city in the US. In contrast, the cost of living in most states has more than quadrupled since 1980. In an almost unprecedented move, states are taking the reigns and setting state minimums that are on some cases more than double those of federal minimums. Even cities are getting in on the action and passing measures to ensure workers are paid enough to keep up with rising costs. In SeaTac, Washington, for instance, the minimum wage is set at $16.09, which is $4.09 higher than the state minimum of $12.
Now six Democratic presidential hopefuls are promising their support in seeking a $15 federal minimum wage. On the state and local level, when minimum wage workers have tried to seek a $15 minimum wage, they have been met with some disapproval. As housing costs just continue to rise, however, support is growing for a much higher federally mandated minimum. In truth, however, by the time such a measure actually makes it through Congress, many states may already be well ahead of them.
In January, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont attempted to re-introduce a bill that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Five other senators co-sponsored the bill, including Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.