Opinion | A minimum wage increase is long overdue

A new federal minimum wage may be imminent, and with informed policymaking, it will positively impact millions.


Raquele Decker

Photo Illustration by Raquele Decker.

Sophie Stover, Opinions Columnist

Studies show a comprehensive wage increase for all workers would benefit millions across the country, including thousands of people in Iowa.

On Jan. 22, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aiming to protect the federal workforce, with Section 5 dedicated to providing the president with policy recommendations from the Office of Personnel Management on how to supply federal government workers a $15 per hour minimum wage. This is part of his goal of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 proposed increasing the minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2025. Although this bill died in the U.S. Senate in 2019, it was reintroduced by House Democrats on Jan. 26. Biden and Congress must act quickly to increase the minimum wage as soon as possible to help thousands of Iowans.

The outdated federal minimum wage hasn’t increased 11 years.  This has led to millions of Americans living in poverty — even when they’re working a full-time job. Anyone who’s working more than 40 hours per week shouldn’t struggle to financially support themselves.

Studies have shown that 1.3 million Americans would be lifted out of poverty if the federal government lifted the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The gender pay gap could be somewhat alleviated by an increase in minimum wage.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage would give 20 million women a raise, a figure that includes 26.7 percent of employed women. States that have a higher minimum wage have significantly lower rates of gender pay disparity, even more reason to increase minimum wage nationally.

The state of Iowa is no exception to the idea that an astonishing number of people would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase. A study from the Iowa Citizens Action Network shows that just an increase in the state to $10.10 per hour would affect 216,000 people. If a small increase would affect over 216,000 people, imagine how many more people would be positively impacted if paid a livable wage of $15 an hour.

Iowa is also no stranger to the issue of gender pay gap. Since Iowa’s minimum wage currently sits at the $7.25 federal minimum, the gender pay gap issue is exacerbated in the state. According to the American Association of University Women’s research on Iowa’s pay gap, they’ve found Iowa regularly ranks between 31st and 46th in pay disparity, making the state one of the worst in the nation. An increase in minimum wage would help eliminate such a dramatic difference in wages.

Critics of hiking the minimum wage worry about economic risks, but many provisions can be put into place to minimize the chances of economic fallout. Actions such as indexing the minimum wage based on cost of living, along with making exceptions for some locations and small businesses lower economic risk.

Since the Raise the Wage Act was initially introduced 2 years ago, I would’ve hoped for a new bill to get to $15 per hour faster than 2025. An adequate increase in minimum wage is long overdue, but after the last 4 years of backward progress, I can’t complain too much if this bill is finally passed.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.