More than a quarter of the country’s workforce currently makes less than $15 per hour, with millions more earning less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Women, people of color and single parents disproportionately represent these low wage workers. That’s despite the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing a federal minimum wage along with provisions for overtime and child labor.
Oxfam America, a global nonprofit, released a new study that outlined the crisis of low wages in the U.S. The research found more than 32 percent of the U.S. labor force, or 51.9 million workers, currently make less than $15 per hour, while many workers are stuck at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Oxfam emphasized that 2009 was the last time the federal minimum wage was changed, which even at the time was “not sufficient to provide for the most basic costs of living in any state in the United States.”
Now in 2022, inflation has hit roughly 7 percent, the highest rate since 1982, putting low-wage workers in an even tighter position to make ends meet.
There are clear demographic patterns among low wage earners, as Oxfam found 40 percent of women, about 31 million people, earn less than $15 per hour. That percentage jumps up to 50 percent when accounting for women of color. At the same time, 25 percent of men earn less than $15.
When looking at wages by race, 46 percent of Hispanic/Latinx workers earn less than $15 per hour while 47 percent of Black workers also earn less than $15 per hour. Comparatively, 26 percent of white workers earn less than $15.
Among single parents, 57 percent, about 11.2 million people, also earn less than $15 per hour.
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Oxfam emphasized that despite the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishing a minimum wage in 1938, it excluded many workers that didn’t qualify for the minimum wage, including farmworkers, domestic workers and restaurant workers. Though Congress did later amend FLSA to include restaurant workers, they were only offered a “subminimum ‘tipped wage,’” which leans on restaurant patrons to tip workers to make up for the difference in hourly wages. </…….