Critics say $15 minimum wage won't help working poor

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December 6, 2013

Rallies targeting fast food restaurants were held in cities across the country today as part of a campaign to raise the federal minimum wage but the movement faces strong opposition from both within and outside of the fast food industry.

Walkouts were planned in at least 100 cities in support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour, roughly $15,000 per year for a full-time job.

The fast food industry claims that raising wages would be difficult without bumping up the prices on their menus too.

But Richard Burkhauser, professor of public policy at Cornell University, says there’s a danger to raising the minimum wage that goes beyond pricier burgers.

“I think if you want to feel good rather than do good, then a minimum wage policy is the policy for you," said Burkhause. "It sounds good, people claim that it’s going to help the working poor, but in reality we know that that just doesn’t happen. In fact, it kills jobs.”

Burkhauser says new pay levels would likely see staff cuts by employers.

Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell, says the changing makeup of the fast food workforce negates that argument.

She says raising the minimum wage would actually assist job growth and the economy.

“These are not kids. The workers who work in these places are adults with families, and so when you raise their wages they are going to get off welfare, get off food stamps, and move into the economy.”

Support for wage hikes has been more successful at the state level. 19 states and D.C. currently have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

New York state’s minimum wage remains at $7.25, but it’s scheduled to rise to $9 per hour by the end of 2015.