At first glance, Hoosier workers had a lot to celebrate Monday, on Labor Day. Unemployment is at a near-record low, and the state has the seventh lowest jobless rate in the country.
However, underneath the surface, many Hoosiers aren’t celebrating. For years, Hoosiers have had some of the lowest per capita incomes in the country. Our neighbors in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin all had higher average incomes in 2016. And today, Hoosiers continue to earn just 88 cents for every dollar the average American makes. Not to mention, the minimum wage in Indiana has been stuck at a meager rate of $7.25 an hour since 2009.
What does all of this mean for folks working minimum wage jobs? For eight years now, their annual paycheck has been exactly the same: $15,080, well below the poverty level for a family of two. It means that as hard as these workers try to provide for their families — often working multiple part-time jobs in hotels and hospitals, restaurants and retail — they must still rely on food stamps, rent subsidies and Medicaid to make ends meet. It means that rather than taking pride in their strong work ethic, they face a paycheck that can feel belittling. With all they do to support our economy and provide for their families, they deserve to feel the value of their work.
Hoosier workers deserve a raise. It has been 10 years since Congress last passed legislation to increase the minimum wage, and the value of the minimum wage has declined significantly over time. Since 1968, the minimum wage has lost over 30 percent of its purchasing power due to inflation, meaning you can buy less with every paycheck. That’s why the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has many families stuck in poverty. However, if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation and average labor productivity since 1968, it would be more than $26 an hour today.
That’s why I am an original co-sponsor of the Raise the Wage Act in Congress. This legislation will raise the minimum wage nationwide incrementally from the current level of $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2024 and tie future increases to the median wage to ensure it keeps pace with other workers. This bill will also gradually eliminate loopholes that allow millions of workers to be paid substantially less than the federal minimum wage.
By phasing in a pay raise for tens of millions of workers, we can raise living standards, lift millions of Americans out of poverty and provide a much-needed boost to our economy.
With Labor Day fresh in our minds, let’s remember that all working people deserve a livable wage.
Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He sits on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.