Officials in SeaTac, Washington just announced that minimum wage will go up to $15 in January. And this Tuesday, Washington D.C. passed a law that will phase in a minimum rate of $11.50 over the next three years.
The issue has weighed heavy on political discourse since President Obama made a call to raise the federal minimum wage to $9, up from the current rate of $7.25 during the 2013 State of the Union Address.
In recent months, fast food strikes have swept the nation, with workers demanding minimum pay of $15 an hour.
Washington D.C. city councilman Vincent Orange, who introduced the D.C. law, stopped by DNA to debate the topic with host Derrick Ashong.
Ashong asserted that raising the minimum wage could act as a barrier to teenagers looking to enter the job market, noting that 49% of minimum wage earners are under 24 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If employers have to pay more per worker, he argued, then these entry level positions would be limited.
"[But] now you see a lot of older people are actually placed in these jobs," Orange replied. "Here in the nation's capitol, we just lost 8,000 jobs due to stagnation. And as a result of that, you have families that are used to getting middle income wages, now being left to apply to these minimum wage jobs."
Nationwide, the number of minimum wage earning workers drops off significantly for those over 24 years old. For instance, only 2.7% of 35 to 44 year olds fall in the category, and 1.8% of those between 55 and 64 years old.
Among those who are 24 and younger, 62.2% of these minimum wage earning workers live in households that make double or more than the official poverty level, Ashong argued. So, wouldn’t raising the wage arguably help suburban kids more than fight the underlying issues of poverty?
Watch the interview above to see the exchange between Ashong and Orange.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.