Standard of Living as a Right, Not a Privilege: Is It Time to Change the Dialogue from Minimum Wage to Living Wage?
Dating back to the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued that workers were entitled to a wage that allowed them to enjoy a decent standard of living—a conviction that led the president to propose the first federally-mandated minimum wage. Mr. Roosevelt’s proposal was met with highly partisan resistance in congress and the courts—reactions not different in kind from the highly partisan resistance former President Obama experienced in his proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 per hour. Reflecting President Roosevelt’s convictions, it is clear that many low wage workers today are not, and cannot, enjoying a decent standard of living at current minimum wage levels. Further, many of the economic arguments raised in opposition to increasing the minimum wage have been thoroughly discredited: empirical evidence suggests that increased minimum wages would not lead to dramatic spikes in unemployment, massive substitutions of capital for labor, business closings, and significantly increased consumer prices. However, as compelling as arguments for increasing the minimum wage may be, the reality is that this may not be sufficient to alleviate the plight of low income workers, particularly given the political nature of minimum wage adjustments. Indeed, it may be time to shift the national focus away from the minimum wage to an emphasis on viable living wage legislation, a proposition consistent with the social justice perspective of contemporary ethicists.
Business and Society Review
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Adams. (2017). Standard of Living as a Right, Not a Privilege: Is It Time to Change the Dialogue from Minimum Wage to Living Wage? Business and Society Review (1974), 122(4), 613–639. https://doi.org/10.1111/basr.12133