Strikes and protests rippled across the U.S. on Dec. 5 as many minimum-wage workers demanded higher pay. Close on the heels of demonstrations by Wal-Mart workers on Black Friday, the protests center on the viability of making a living at $7.25 per hour. A common demand is a big jump in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.
The federal minimum wage goes back to 1938 when it was initiated 25 cents per hour. Adjusted for inflation, that was equal to $4.14 per hour (in 2013 dollars). Since then Congress raised the minimum wage at varying intervals, some as short as a year and once more than nine years. For decades the minimum wage tended to grow faster than inflation, and it hit its inflation-adjusted peak at $10.74 per hour in 1968 ($1.60 per hour back then). Since then it has lost quite a bit of ground. It hit bottom in 2007 when it was $6.59 per hour. It has made up some of that, growing to $7.25, but it’s still about 30 percent below the high-water mark in 1968. (more...)