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NC’s Minimum Wage Workers Won’t Be Getting a Raise – For the 15th Consecutive Year

Source: Winston-Salem Journal

It may be a new year, but it’s the same old story for around 55,000 of North Carolina’s minimum-wage workers because – for the 15th straight year – the NC General Assembly did not pass a wage hike for them, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

With their lack of action, the Republican-controlled legislature just told more than 50,000 of North Carolina’s most poorly-paid workers that they are not valued and they are undeserving of making a living wage.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 55,000 North Carolinians entered this new year with their pay at or below the $7.25 federal minimum wage set 14 years ago.

For those who want to take the glass-half-full look at the situation, the number of workers being paid minimum wage in the state dropped by about 5,000 compared to the start of 2023.

Gov. Roy Cooper, who is in the last year of his second term as governor, has long emphasized the importance of a minimum-wage hike and the fact that one is long overdue.

Considering the Republicans’ legislative supermajority and their general opposition to paying workers, there’s not much that Cooper or Democrats can do to address the issue.

In 2023, Democrats sponsored six minimum-wage bills that would have raised the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. Republicans in both chambers ignored all six of those bills and took no action on them, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

“I have been trying for at least 13 years to raise the minimum wage to be more livable, with no success,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford.

Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said, “There is little discussion of minimum wage hikes in the current environment. This appears to be looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Krawiec has announced plans to retire after the 2024 session.

According to the N.C. Justice Center, 1.3 million North Carolinians (including 750,000 women) would benefit from raising the minimum wage to even $12 an hour.

Twenty-five states are raising their minimum wage in 2024, including three states even more right-wing than North Carolina. Florida is raising the minimum wage to $13, Missouri is raising it to $12.30 and Ohio is instituting a $10.45 minimum wage.

In those three states, the wage increases result from state constitutional amendments that require cost-of-living indexes or ballot referendums.

As many have discovered in the past year, North Carolina’s constitution does not allow voters to put referendums on the ballot or recall legislators. These rules give the Republican supermajority all the power to ignore minimum-wage bills, which they do every year.

“The low-wage working people of our state are facing enormous financial and logistical strain just trying to provide the basic needs for theirs,” said Ana Pardo, co-director of the Workers’ Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center.

“The pandemic showed us that it’s not only possible to do right by working people, it’s urgently important that we do so.”

North Carolina is among 20 states that tie their minimum wages to the federal required wage. Four of those, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas, are among the 10 largest in the nation.

By comparison, 20 other states – blue, purple and red – have legislation or mechanisms that were legislatively approved that raise their minimum wages when specific economic conditions are met.

Conditions for raising the wage sometimes include tying it to factors such as inflation, the size of an employer’s workforce, or whether an employer provides health insurance benefits.

A full-time minimum-wage worker in North Carolina earns $15,080 per year.

That’s 17.6% less than the $19,720 federal poverty level for 2023 for a family of one adult and one child. The federal poverty level is $30,000 for a four-member household.

Nearly 1.4 million North Carolinians live at or below those poverty lines.

Click here to read more from the Winston-Salem Journal

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