Opponents of raising the minimum wage have had their way for decade after decade.
The argument that raising the minimum wage will lead to loss of jobs has been enough to spike attempts to raise the minimum wage that was first put into law in 1938.
And it might be that if the world were a sterile laboratory, the truism that raising the price of something — in this case, labor — would invoke the law of supply and demand. If the price of labor rises, employers presumably would eliminate jobs rather than pay workers more than the market dictates.
Obviously in the real world, the so-called rules do not apply without fail. In Nebraska, for example, the unemployment rate has been one of the lowest in the country for years. Yet jobs don’t pay more here than elsewhere.
In the real world, the people with capital, described by some as job creators, have been in control for years, and they’ve restructured the system to their own advantage.
* The amount of corporate income turned over to owners, rather than workers, reached an all-time high last year, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
* Wage growth is the lowest in decades. Meanwhile, the gap between CEO wages and worker wages at Standard and Poor’s 500 was about 200 to 1 in 2012, as calculated by Business Week. That compares with a ratio 50 years ago of about 20 to 1.
* Giant corporations rely on welfare programs so their workers can get by. More than half of fast-food workers enroll their families in public assistance programs, according to a study by researchers at the University of California at Berkley.
These undeniable trends lead the Journal Star editorial board to think that it might be time for the Legislature to raise the minimum wage in Nebraska.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist’s LB943 has proposed raising the minimum wage to $9 in Nebraska over three years. That’s still below the $9.40 that the minimum wage in 1968 would be worth today if adjusted for inflation.
Sen. Steve Lathrop’s more politically palatable LB947 would apply only to tip-earners, who now earn only $2.13 an hour, which would rise gradually to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. Waitress Sonia Bentley summed it up at a public hearing:
“We’re not complaining about the hard work, but when a person works two full-time jobs and can still not even manage to get by, there’s an injustice being committed.”