Column, 463 words

Lobbying to Sustain Inequality

Boosting the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour has strong public support and should be a no-brainer.


Congress will soon vote on a measure that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 and bring the tipped wage to 70 percent of the full minimum.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act would give millions of American workers a long-overdue raise. Today’s $7.25-per-hour minimum isn’t a living wage anywhere in America. In fact, the average cost of living in America would require closer to $15 per hour.

Minimum Wage Fast Food Worker


As for tipped workers, their wages have been frozen in place at $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. As the White House recently announced, women would be most affected by a tipped wage increase as they make up more than 70 percent of restaurant workers.

Public support for a minimum wage hike is overwhelming. A recent Gallup poll shows that 76 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage.

With such decisive backing, the Fair Minimum Wage Act ought to be a no-brainer. Yet, passage in Congress is expected to be contentious. Why? Because the bill’s main opponents are large, profitable corporations with an excessive lobbying influence in Washington.

This predicament has prompted several states not to wait around on Congress. As of January 2014, thirteen states now have a higher minimum wage than the federal minimum of $7.25.

From only a dozen or so in the early 1960s to thousands today, corporate lobbyists in Washington are spending more than ever to defeat common sense legislation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of big business, has nearly doubled its spending over the last decade to $80 million in 2013. The National Restaurant Association, which represents companies like McDonald’s and Applebee’s, has more than doubled its spending since 2003

Large, wealthy corporations are the majority — 66 percent — of low-wage employers in America. According to the National Employment Law Project, the 50 largest employers of low-wage workers are highly profitable, large corporations with executive compensation averaging $9.4 million.

One of the most aggressive lobbying forces against the Fair Minimum Wage Act has been the National Restaurant Association. Nearly 60 percent of the food services workforce is low-wage, the highest percentage of any industry. A small raise for these workers would mean only a slight cut in corporate profits. Yet, greedy CEOs and wealthy investors won’t budge.

Like most low-wage employers, the restaurant industry can afford to pay more. With record-breaking profits exceeding $660 billion in 2013, the industry is more profitable than ever.

Corporate lobbying against the minimum wage is a stark example of how corporations are stoking inequality. As wealth grows more concentrated at the top, corporate lobbyists are working hard to prevent even modest raises for the workers who create their wealth.

But Americans can stop this racket. Let’s give workers the raise they deserve, and send a message to corporate America: Our democracy is not for sale.

OtherWords columnist Marjorie Elizabeth Wood is an economic policy associate at the Institute for Policy Studies and the Managing Editor of

  • Johnny Dollar

    If the average cost of living in most of America requires $15 per hour, why not set it there? Elizabeth Warren says it should be over $20. Why stop there? Why not $30 or $40? Personally disinterested one way or the other since I wouldn’t go back to work at any of those price tags.

  • Andy

    If overwhelming public support constituted reason for change, then the ACA would have been repealed and replaced. Most of us understand that if we work hard our employers or another potential employer will recognize that effort and you get a raise. Mandated raises will increase the cost of living and we will be right back where we started. If labor supply is in demand (more jobs) then the minimum wage is mute. Look at places in ND, wages at fast food places exceed 12$ per hour.

    I agree that two people working full time should make a living wage. That is regional and should be set by the states. 15$ per hour means a lot more in Arkansas than it does in New York.
    PS. Any good waitress will exceed the 10$ per hour easy.