People gather together to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise workers wages to a $15 minimum wage as well as demanding the right to a union on May 23, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
About a third of Louisiana’s workers would benefit from a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.
The report said 695,000 workers in Louisiana could see their wages increase by an average of at least $4,500 — an additional $3.3 billion in wages for the state’s lowest-paid workers. Louisiana is one of the five states in the nation that don’t have a statewide minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage.
Democratic lawmakers in Congress have introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 — more than doubling today’s $7.25 minimum wage.
But some officials question the timing of the measure. Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins said he believes now is “the worst possible time to double the federal minimum wage” due to the economic burden of the COVID-19 pandemic leaving thousands of Louisianans still unemployed. Higgins referenced a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report that the minimum wage increase would leave 1.4 million workers unemployed.
“It won’t matter what the minimum wage is if you don’t have a job,” Higgins said in a statement to the LA Illuminator. “I’m not opposed to increasing minimum wage standards, but those decisions should be made in the sovereign states. It should be indexed to inflation and cost of living demands. Any minimum wage formula should be one that works for both employees and employers.”
Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson echoed those sentiments in a tweet critiquing the bill, saying it would “raise prices, kill jobs and blow up the deficit” and “this proposal could not come at a worse time for our economy.”
Taylor Haulsee, Johnson’s spokesperson, said “CBO shows that in order to stay afloat, businesses would have to lay off workers. This would increase unemployment, increase poverty, and increase the federal deficit.”
The Congressional Budget Office report found that raising the federal minimum wage to$15 per hour would reduce poverty, add $54 billion to the deficit over a decade and increase pay for millions of low-income workers. About 900,000 people would be lifted out of poverty — the report said — and 17 million would experience a wage increase under the pay boost. In the United States, about 38 million people live in poverty.
Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said he believes the minimum wage increase would significantly benefit Louisiana workers. “It doesn’t take a trained labor economist to recognize that far too many Louisianans are working hard every day for sub-poverty wages and that they are long overdue for a raise,” he said.
“The Raise the Wage Act would be great news for Louisiana workers and the communities where they live,” Moller said. “Workers here badly need a raise.”
Ben Zucker, co-director of Step Up Louisiana, an organization ”for economic and education justice in the South,” said Step Up is “absolutely in support of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021” and “a $15 minimum wage has been a long-term priority for our organization and federal action would be welcomed by workers in our state.”
“It is a very exciting development in the Fight for $15,” he said.
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