Workers, religious leaders and small business owners are among the group of North Carolinians planning to rally for higher minimum wages in Raleigh on Thursday evening.
Since 2009, the minimum wage in North Carolina has been at the federal threshold of $7.25 an hour. Union advocates said it is time to raise the wage to $15 an hour.
“For 11 consecutive years, the cost of living – food, rent, education, childcare– has increased, causing our minimum wage to decline in value by 24 percent,” said MaryBe McMillan, president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO. “Now, a person working full-time while making $7.25 an hour lives thousands of dollars below the federal poverty threshold.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 29 states and Washington D.C., have implemented a minimum-wage rate that is higher than $7.25. Washington, D.C., has the highest rate at $14 an hour. Workers in New York City can become eligible for $15 an hour if they meet work-hour requirements. New York State is among 18 states that have annual adjustments for their minimum wage.
About 16 bills were proposed, but failed, in the last legislative session to increase North Carolina's minimum wage, many with a threshold of $15 an hour.
North Carolina minimum wage advocates say $15 an hour is what workers in the state need to cover the “bare necessities,” often referred to as a living wage.
Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, have determined the living wage for an adult with no children in North Carolina is $11.79 an hour.
MIT’s living-wage calculator factors in food, medical expenses, housing, transportation, taxes and other expenses. The living wage increases with dependents and decreases when more than one adult in the household is employed. The living wage for the average U.S. family of three in North Carolina is $13.08 an hour with two working adults and $22.23 an hour with one working adult, according to MIT.
Based on U.S. Census statistics, about 65 percent of North Carolinians own homes, with the median ownership cost at $1,250 a month. The median rent in the state is $877 a month. Thirty percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which could lead to higher-paying jobs. The per capita income is $29,456, which equates to $15.11 an hour.
Notably, 74 percent of U.S. economists oppose raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to an online survey by the Employment Policies Institute. Most of the economists believe it will hurt youth employment. Two-thirds of the surveyed group believe a more appropriate minimum wage is $10.
Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research have linked an increase in the minimum wage to improvements in childhood health.
Researchers at Emory University’s Department of Epidemiology also found that raising the minimum wage could decrease the suicide rate in adults between 18 and 64 years old with a high school education or less.