Vary the Minimum Wage by Region? (Letter to the Editor)

To the Editor:

Re “A Smarter Minimum Wage” (Op-Ed, Nov. 18):

Jonathan Cowan and Jim Kessler’s argument for a regionally tiered minimum wage is poor policy that would leave too many workers behind. The minimum wage rates they recommend — an average of $10.90 initially for most regions of the United States and just $9.25 in lower-cost parts of rural America — are far too low and would not reach $15 an hour until about 2032 for most of the United States, and 2041 in rural America (assuming 2 percent annual inflation).

While the $15 wage movement started in cities like Seattle and New York, paychecks have been flat all across America, and cost-of-living data show that in all 50 states single workers will need $15 an hour in just a few years to afford the basics. Beyond living costs, regional wage differences in low-paying industries have been declining, with the result that home health aides and waitresses in New Jersey today earn just a little more than they do in Mississippi.

Our national economy therefore needs a strong and uniform national wage floor to lift workers across the country — and prevent a race to the bottom.


The writer is general counsel at the National Employment Law Project.

Read the original letter at The New York Times.

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