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Does Federal Minimum Wage Still Matter?


June 14, 2022

Center Operations Manager Natalie Shaak was quoted in an article discussing the need to continue the federal minimum wage when a majority of states have minimum wages above the federal wage floor and private employers are raising their lowest wages to compete for workers. She, and many experts agree, the federal minimum wage still matters.

Thirty U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam have set wage floors higher than the federal rate, some of which are on track to surpass $15 for the first time due to indexing to inflation. Employers have also raised wages to attract and retain workers.

But July marks 13 years since the federal minimum wage last increased, to $7.25 an hour in 2009, following Congress's 2007 amendment of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Several major employers have raised their lowest hourly wages to $15 or more, including in the banking, retail, pharmacy and food service industries.

But employers might not always pay so much, and so raising the federal wage floor remains necessary, said Natalie Shaak, operations manager at Drexel University's Center for Hunger-Free Communities, who wrote a 2021 policy brief that said $15 an hour is still too low.

"When things swing back the other way and there's not a place where all these businesses are fighting for employees, there needs to be a bar set," Shaak said. "And that bar is the federal minimum wage."

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