This week, discussions about raising the federal minimum wage came to the forefront again after Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared that the minimum wage would currently be $22 an hour if it had kept up with worker productivity. Senator Warren points out that our current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour does not reflect the cost of living increases or worker productivity increases that we have experienced over the past several decades.
A wage increase would have a significant effect on transgender people. Compared to the general population, transgender people are four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This extreme poverty is directly tied to the widespread discrimination against transgender people in employment and other sectors, which force an outsized share of transgender people into minimum-wage jobs.
Depressed minimum wages has resulted in an economy where low-wage transgender workers and all workers struggle to overcome poverty while many businesses continue to see rising profits. For the 80% of minimum wage workers who are over 18, the current minimum wage amounts to just $15,000 a year–-below the poverty line for a family of three.
Discussions about raising the minimum wage first came to the forefront this year during President Obama’s State of the Union address, when he proposed raising the amount to $9 an hour. Since then, Congress has introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which seeks to incrementally raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015. The bill has support in both chambers, but it is unclear whether it will move towards passage.
Numerous studies show raising the minimum wage would result in decreased employee turnover and would not result in fewer jobs overall.
While we continue to monitor this legislation and fight against employment discrimination, raising the minimum wage is one of the most direct steps we could take today to lift large numbers of transgender workers out of poverty.