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Editorial: Fight for 15

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 18, 2015 5:00 AM

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Dialogue concerning the minimum wage has once again entered the national spotlight with groups of fast-food workers sparking a labor movement under the moniker “Fight for 15,” in which workers are organizing in an attempt to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15 an hour. A similar movement made headlines earlier this year with a controversial wage victory in Seattle. 

The citywide minimum-wage policy navigates the issue tactfully, setting the required minimum pay on a sliding scale correlating with the amount of employees in the workforce nationwide. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees are required to pay their workers $10 hourly pay, and those with more than 500 are obligated to pay $11. Though by 2021, with yearly increases, all business would be required a $15 minimum. 

According to the Seattle Times, average rent in the Seattle area reached approximately $1,200 in 2014 and is expected to continue its climb. With rents this high and fast-food employees pay rate so low, a livable wage grievance makes sense. McDonald’s attempted to maneuver this surge in fast food worker dissent by stating that they would pay workers $1 above the minimum in each city or state, but this doesn’t seem to be enough. 

Take New York City for example, where average rent, as of May, sits at a ludicrous $3,432 monthly, according to Rent Jungle. Minimum wage in the city is scheduled to rise to $9 per hour in 2016, which is absolutely not a livable wage in such a pricey environment. Minimum wages don’t seem to cut it. With McDonald’s consistent billion dollar profits, it seems as if these wage increases wouldn’t cause much of a dent in the company’s global business, but economists argue that increasing minimum wage contributes to inflation, devaluing the American dollar.

The New York Times claims that an increase’s “impact on inflation has all been in the range of a tenth or two-tenths of a percent — figures that are infinitesimal in terms of the impact of the current drought, or if oil prices rise, or anything else.” 

Of course, although minutely, an increase would affect inflation, which in turn negatively affects every person who engages in business utilizing federally tendered notes. The American dollar, after Nixon removed it from the gold standard, is essentially backed by good faith. If the Fight for 15 trend continues its spread across metropolitan areas in the country (Chicago becoming the most recent battle ground over the issue) this good faith could be in jeopardy. Economies are fragile things.

Though, the bottom line is people need to live. Rent still needs to be paid, medicine needs to be bought and food needs to hit the table. The question at the core of this issue is: people or profits? The Daily Iowan Editorial Board leans toward people.


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