The real value of Washington’s minimum wage

By EOI Policy Intern Tatsuko Go Hollo

hotel maidThe minimum wage just isn’t worth what is used to be. A recent news article points out that while the minimum wage has seen modest increases over the last several decades, inflation has led to a drop in the value of those wages.

In fact, the minimum wage is now worth less than it was worth in the 1950s. Had the federal minimum wage kept pace with inflation, today’s rate would be $10.39, a far cry from the actual rate of $7.25. Many families of minimum wage workers rely on those wages for more than half of their income. With the value of the minimum wage decreasing, these working individuals can afford less of what they need to support their families.

So what does this mean for Washington? Washington state boasts the best minimum wage in the country at $8.67, meaning low-wage earners are able to afford more of what they need. This is especially important for Washington women and people of color, as both groups are disproportionately represented among minimum wage earners nationally.

Additionally, as minimum wage workers typically spend all of their earnings, that money goes right back into our economy. Consumer spending is critical for economic recovery, especially in Washington, where a significant portion of our general fund revenue is generated from sales tax.

Ultimately, a strong minimum wage benefits not only working Washingtonians, but also contributes to a functional economy- something we all value.

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