Growing body of evidence favors raising minimum wage

The evidence is stacking up: Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs.

Opponents of a higher wage make that argument repeatedly, sounding the alarm in a desperate effort to squelch any idea of giving workers a tiny boost in pay so they can feed and clothe their kids a little easier on a bare-bones paycheck.

Shelling out an extra 25 or 50 cents will bankrupt companies, critics warn. Putting more money in workers’ pockets won’t help them when jobs disappear, they caution.

Nevertheless, 10 cities — including Chicago — and seven states have chosen in recent years to raise their minimum wage to a livable $12-to-$15 per hour. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in a recent study on Chicago’s higher minimum wage, found no negative impact on jobs. Other studies have suggested mixed results.

Now the University of California at Berkeley has weighed in with a new study of wage increases for food service workers — a major low-wage industry — in six cities, including Chicago.

Lo and behold, the study found, jobs as well as wages went up, “in a pattern that suggests, if anything, that the minimum wage caused employment to expand,” the study states.

Why? Workers who earn more are less likely to quit and more likely to increase their spending — both of which, in the long run, means more people on the job, not fewer.

To our thinking, a more respectable minimum wage has never been more important, even if it is only a symbolic gesture toward the notion that something must be done to reduce a growing wage and wealth gap in the United States. The stock market has been booming, but because stock ownership is concentrated among richer people, it has increased economic inequality.

Last year, Illinois legislators approved a $15 minimum wage for the state, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill.

The argument for keeping the minimum at a paltry $8.25 just took another blow.

Chicago Sun-Times