Minimum Wage Is A Woman’s Issue: True Or False?


By the Yankee, Arlene Winkler


True from Day-One: In 1938, the passage of the original minimum wage of 25 cents an hour was due to the hard work of Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a cabinet post in this country. Appointed Secretary of Labor by President Franklin Roosevelt, it took their combined efforts for five long years to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act.


Minimum wage, by state.

Minimum wage, by state.

Although Frances Perkins would have been famous simply by being the first woman cabinet member, her legacy stems from her accomplishments. She was largely responsible for the U.S. adoption of social security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor, and adoption of the federal minimum wage.


True or false: Times have changed.


True: In 1938 the population of the United States was less than 130 million, and men were the primary wage earners. Today, the total population is about 315 million. In 2013, in North Carolina, more than 466,000 of the 700,000 low-wage workers are women, 75% are age 20 or older and nearly four in ten are women of color.


False: On the other hand, some things never change. In the words of President Roosevelt, in his fireside address on the night before the Fair Standards Act was passed: “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000.00 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you— using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions—tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”


True or False: Women are a large majority of minimum wage earners.


True: Women make up about two-thirds of all workers who were paid minimum wage or less, and 61 percent of full-time minimum wage workers. Women also make up nearly two-thirds of workers in tipped occupations, providing care for children and frail elders, cleaning homes and offices, and waiting tables.


True or False: A raise for low-wage working women is long overdue.


True: Congress has raised the minimum wage only three times in 30 years. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be over $10.70 per hour today.


True or False: A woman working full time, in North Carolina at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour can pull herself out of poverty.


False: A North Carolina woman earning minimum wage (North Carolina tracks the Federal standard of $7.25 per hour), can earn about $15,800 per year. But actual family costs for one adult and one child in NC requires an income of more than twice that amount.


True or False: She can make up the difference in tips.


False: Restaurant servers, the largest group of tipped employees, experience poverty at nearly three times the rate of the workforce as a whole – and about 70% of servers are women.


The federal minimum cash wage for employees in tipped occupations is $2.13 per hour, unchanged in over 20 years and less than one-third of the federal minimum wage.


As if that’s not bad enough, under the Fair Standards Labor Act, Section 3(m) of the FLSA permits an employer to take a tip credit toward its minimum wage obligation for tipped employees equal to the difference between the required cash wage (which must be at least $2.13) and the federal minimum wage.


True or False: The current Fair Minimum Wage Act is a short-term solution.


False: The Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010/S. 460) and the Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S.1737) would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, increase the tipped minimum cash wage from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and index these wages to keep pace with inflation.


True or False: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would cause job loss and do permanent harm to the economy.


False: Raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss, even during periods of recession. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost full time annual earnings by $5700 to $20,200— enough to pull a family of three out of poverty. What’s more, every nickel would go back into the local economy in terms of dollars paid for rent, food and medical care. That’s a lot of nickels.


True or False: Raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs.


False: The Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would generate more than $22 billion in additional economic activity and around 85,000 jobs. An estimated 4.6 million non-elderly Americans would see their incomes rise above the poverty line, including 2.8 million women and girls.


True or False: North Carolina has a better minimum wage record than other states in our area.


Funny you should ask: North Carolina, along with 17 other states has minimum wage rates that are commensurate with the Federal rate of $7.25 per hour; while our neighbors in South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee have no basic minimum wage at all.


If you don’t believe me, look for yourself here.




NC Policy Watch


National Women’s Law Center



Arlene Winkler is a freelance writer with an unabashed passion for fine art, fine food and fine wine. A former ad agency president and enthusiastic participant of life on the New York fast track, she moved to Asheville in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Robert Winkler. A mother of three, a grandmother of five, she is dealing with her culture shock by writing about the accomplishments of women above and below the Mason Dixon line.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker