St. Mary's Law Journal


Millions of people are working for a living but not receiving a living wage in return for their work. The value of the minimum wage continues to erode, with the Congressional Research Service estimating the minimum wage would have to rise to $6.75 per hour in 1996 to equal the purchasing power it represented in 1978. It is not in the common interest, nor in the interest of justice, for people to work full-time, yet remain mired in poverty. Reforming the minimum wage by raising it and indexing it for inflation is a critical step toward attaining Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s goal of assisting the nation’s working poor by providing “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” The vast majority of workers who earn low wages are not officially counted as poor because others in their household also work, raising the household income above the official poverty level. Though there are many causes working in combination to create the working poor, low wages are certainly at the center of the phenomenon. Many of the working poor are those who work less than full-time at low wages. While the economic, political, and legal positions of supporters and opponents of a living wage have not changed much since the beginning of this century, it is important for the common interest to reargue this issue as one of fairness. It is certainly in the interest of the nation and justice itself to encourage all who can to work while raising and indexing the minimum wage to accomplish this goal. Current legislative battles over raising and indexing the minimum wage will continue until those who work for a living, earn a living for their work.


St. Mary's University School of Law