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Is it time to hike the minimum wage?

Johnson City Press • Jul 17, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Calls from Democrats to increase the federal minimum wage are falling on deaf ears on Capitol Hill, where Republicans control both houses in Congress. President Donald Trump has also said he’s against a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

There has also been talk of undoing an executive order by former President Barack Obama in 2015 that raised the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts to $10.10 per hour. The move was an effort by Obama to pressure Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers.

Supporters of raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour say it would offer dignity and opportunity for advancement to the 8 million working Americans who still live below the poverty line. They say areas with higher minimum wages are seeing their local economies boom while low-wage states — like Tennessee — continue to struggle.

Meanwhile, opponents argue that hiking the minimum wage will actually hurt low-income employees by forcing businesses to eliminate many of those jobs. They also claim a higher minimum wage would discourage the creation of new jobs.

The national minimum wage was last hiked in 2007 when President George W. Bush signed into law a compromise bill from Congress to increase pay in three steps. The federal minimum wage was finally raised to its current $7.25 an hour in 2009.

That hike impacted an estimated 13 million Americans, or about 9 percent of the total workforce.

A number of states have voted to set their own minimum wage above the federal rate. Minimum-wage workers in Tennessee, however, must rely on the federal government to get a raise. Republicans who hold a majority in the Tennessee General Assembly are against setting a state rate and have blocked efforts by cities and towns in this state to set their own local minimum wages.

Large cities in other states have approved minimum wages higher than the federal level, including Seattle, which already has a minimum rate of $15 an hour.

Tell us what you think. Would a $15-an-hour minimum wage help low income workers, or will it kill jobs?

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