“That’s simply not enough money in many parts of the country to survive and provide for your family,” said Frank Baumgartner, a UNC political science professor.
North Carolina’s minimum wage is $7.25 — the same as the requirement set by the federal government. But the Fight for $15 campaign is seeking to change that.
Today, protesters around the country are rallying to demand that the minimum wage be raised to $15. One of these rallies will be in Raleigh on the Shaw University quad at 5 p.m.
Naomi Baumann-Carbrey, a junior involved with UNC Student Action with Workers, said the campaign seeks to give workers a living wage.
“The movement is about basic human dignity and the right to have a better life and access to the things we all need to live fulfilling lives,” she said.
Patrick Conway, chairman of the economics department, said arguments for raising the minimum wage are based on income distribution.
“The minimum wage at its current level is so low that someone who is earning the minimum wage will find that if he has a family of three and he’s the sole worker — he’ll find that his family is living below the poverty line even if he’s working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year,” Conway said.
The federal poverty level as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services is $20,090 for a family of three.
Baumgartner said he thinks a $15 minimum wage is reasonable to request, but making that change requires seeing it as a living wage.
“They aren’t shooting for small potatoes here,” he said. “They’re shooting for how we think about low-wage jobs.”
Rising business costs are one of the primary arguments against raising the minimum wage. Conway said the argument is based on the idea that an increase in wages will cause employers to hire fewer workers.
“But my preference would be to see us reach it through a number of steps over the years so firms do not find themselves facing too large an increase in their costs,” he said.
This theory is not as clear-cut in practice, Conway said, citing a 1993 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Researchers examined the impact of an increase in the New Jersey minimum wage and concluded the increase did not reduce employment.
“This is a question on which there is a lot of disagreement among economists,” Conway said.
Carbrey said it is important for students to be involved in this movement, as studies have shown more than 260,000 college graduates are working minimum wage jobs.
“When we get out of school, we do not have the promise of a high-paying job,” she said. “So it’s really important for students to see themselves as part of this movement.”
For any students wishing to attend the rally, Carbrey said buses will leave from the parking lot behind Davis Library at 3:30 p.m. today.