In May, Congress enacted a minimum wage increase to $7.25 an hour phased in over two years, as part of the Iraq supplemental spending bill. The spending bill also includes a $4.84 billion tax relief package for small businesses designed to offset the impact of the wage increase.
When Santa Fe's minimum wage rises to $10.29 an hour on March 1, the New Mexico capital will have the highest local wage requirement in the country, according to the National Employment Law Project.
In remarks on the campaign trail, Romney said that he favors allowing "the minimum wage to rise with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) or with another index so that it adjusts automatically over time." He is in rare agreement with President Obama, who supports a $9.50 minimum wage and tying it to the federal cost-of-living index.
A $9.50 hourly minimum would generate about $60 billion for such low-wage earners over a two-year period, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal economic research organization.
State legislators in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois and elsewhere are pushing to raise the minimum wage above the federal level in their own states, arguing that $7.25 an hour is too meager for anyone to live on.
In 2010, 1.8 million hourly workers earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to federal data. About 2.5 million had wages below the minimum, in part because of exemptions under the law for certain categories of workers like many students.
Take that $2.13 figure, the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. Legally, tips should cover the difference between that and the federal minimum wage, now a whopping $7.25.
If they don’t, employers are obligated to make up the difference. But that doesn’t always happen, leaving millions of servers — 70 percent of whom are women — taking home far less than the minimum wage.
A full-time worker earning the minimum wage makes just $15,080 per year, below the poverty line for a family of three.
If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years, it would be $10.52 per hour today.
The typical woman earns 77 cents for every dollar the typical man does, and the fact that women are more likely to be minimum-wage earners than men contributes to that disparity.
The bill is called "Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012" because supporters say, even if the minimum wage is raised to $10 per hour, it would still be less than the minimum wage of 1968 adjusted for inflation.
Many states have their own minimum wage laws. Michigan's minimum wage is currently set at $7.40 per hour.