Do the chickens have large talons? -Napoleon Dynamite
Question #93474 posted on 02/15/2021 12:38 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

It seems likely that at some point the US will raise its minimum wage, perhaps to $15 an hour. Several parts of the US have done this already. I've been looking for data to show what happened to the wages for employees making an amount near $15 an hour. I would assume that they would get some kind of marginal pay increase, but I haven't found that information. Have places that raised the minimum wage recently shown this to be the case, or has it been the case when we've historically raised the minimum wage?

-My Name Here


Dear you,

I'm not sure if I fully understand your question, but I can share an anecdote!

Several years ago, the unions that are made up of thousands of Disney cast members successfully negotiated that Disney raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour over the course of several years. Prior to this negotiation most front-line cast members earned somewhere in the $10-11 range, so this represented a significant increase. There were to be several incremental increases over the years, until the $15 threshold was reached.

At the time, I worked in a non-unionized role, and a role which required a marginally greater degree of skill, knowledge, and experience than most of the front-line roles. The compensation structure within that role relied on offering higher wages than front-line roles, because it wasn't the most glamorous job and suffered from high turnover rates. However, at the time most cast members in that role were still earning less than $15 an hour.

Therefore shortly after the announcement from the unions, my role offered an unprecedented raise, bumping us all up to over $15, where previously raises were offered annually and based on strict performance metrics. And, in my experience as I continued to work in non-unionized roles over the years, everyone would be offered a raise at approximately the same intervals as the negotiated union raises, despite no contractual obligations to do so.

So in my experience, raising the minimum wage did increase wages, even for those making above the established threshold. Of course, I can't claim that the effect within a single company would be mirrored by a much larger economy such as entire states or the country, but logically, it would make sense to me were the same to occur. Jobs that require greater experience or education ought to offer higher wages than minimum-wage level jobs, in order to attract and retain qualified candidates. I think it would be difficult to retain employees if someone could find a job with similar wages that required less stress or responsibility. Of course that's an oversimplified view, as other factors like benefits and job satisfaction would certainly play into a person's employment decisions, but I think the general principle stands.