The crusade to raise the minimum wage, first spurred by protesters in New York City Nov. 2012, continues to this day and has already begun to affect many states’ economies. As of Jan. 1, 2015, 20 states have taken measures to increase wages for workers, and Missouri minimum wage workers currently earn $7.65 per hour, $0.15 more than the national average. However, for many, these raises do not address the true issue— no state has increased its minimum wage more than $1.25, creating a conflict that prominent politicians and other citizens alike seek to remedy.
The current goal of the majority of protesters is to reach a nationwide average minimum wage of $15 per hour. Many states would have to double their wage regulations to achieve this goal. This effort, known as “Fight for 15,” is largely the product of an ally to the cause, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which serves to unite workers in commonly exploited sectors, such as fast food or retail. With millions of dollars at their disposal, the SEIU seeks to expose companies particularly notorious for low wages. SEIU aims to cultivate socially conscious consumers who are more likely to boycott businesses. McDonald’s is their greatest target.
2016 presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are already allying themselves with the protesting workers. They have stated on multiple occasions that full-time workers deserve a livable wage. One commonly cited reason for the political interest in the issue is that $153 billion per year goes to operating state and federal public assistance programs for working families. For example, a quarter of the Colorado workforce earns less than $12 an hour, and taxpayers in that state pay up to $304 million a year to cover healthcare costs. In the end, however, many see the issue as one that should be discussed between individual companies and their workers, and the $15 minimum wage would serve merely as a guideline to begin negotiations for individual circumstances and situations.