Thousands in Arkansas would benefit from minimum wage increase | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thousands in Arkansas would benefit from minimum wage increase

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 6:49 AM

click to enlarge GOVERNING
  • Governing

An increase in the minimum wage is not an abstract economic policy debate, but a subject with real meaning to working people. For example; New government statistics show that 44,000 Arkansas workers are paid at or below the $7.25 federal minimum wage.

What's more, 14,000 of those workers are paid less than the federal minimum wage, which means they have only the protection of the state's $6.25 an hour minimum wage.

The state's minimum wage would produce $250 for a 40-hour work week, or $13,000 for 52 full weeks of work.

The numbers are important as politicians face an Obama administration proposal to increase the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour, an idea that seems to be going nowhere.

More important is a proposal to lift the state's minimum wage, in stages, to $8.50 an hour. This would benefit tens of thousands of people, far more than just the 44,000 working at or below the current $7.25 federal minimum. It's become an issue in the race for U.S. Senate. Mark Pryor has endorsed the Give Arkansas a Raise Now campaign for an initiated act to raise the state minimum. His Republican opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton, joins Pryor in opposing the federal wage minimum increase, but has declined so far to take a position on an increase in the state minimum.

Governing magazine notes that low-pay states drive the number of workers paid at the bare minimum of the federal law.

The presence of any state minimum-wage law remains the overriding factor driving the number of employees at or below the federal rate. Of states where the share of workers earning at or below minimum-wage pay exceeded the national average of 4.3 percent, all but four lacked higher state minimum-wage laws last year.

About 4.3 percent of the country's workers are paid at or below the minimum wage. The relevant local comparison:

About 7.4 percent of Tennessee’s hourly workforce took home wages at or less than the federal rate. That share topped all other states, followed by Idaho (7.1 percent), Alabama (6.8 percent) and Arkansas (6.8 percent). Regions without state minimum-wage laws, particularly in the South, tend to employ the greatest concentrations of minimum-wage workers.

UPDATE: Here's an even more detailed resource on what the minimum wage means in Arkansas.

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