Senator: Should hourly minimum wage be $22?

Elizabeth Warren said that a much higher baseline would be appropriate if wages were tied to productivity gains.

By Kim Peterson Mar 18, 2013 4:16PM
Image: Office worker (Digital Vision/Getty Images/Getty Images)What if U.S. workers were paid more as the nation's productivity increased?

If we had adopted that policy decades ago, the minimum wage would now be about $22 an hour, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) last week. Warren was speaking at a hearing held by the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. You can see the video here.

Warren was talking to Arindrajit Dube, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor who has studied the issue of minimum wage. "With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, what happened to the other $14.75?" she asked Dube. "It sure didn't go to the worker."

The $22 minimum wage Warren referred to came from a 2012 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research. It said that the minimum wage would have hit $21.72 an hour last year if it had been tied to the increases seen in worker productivity since 1968. Even if the minimum wage got only one-fourth the pickup as the rate of productivity, it would now be $12.25 an hour instead of $7.25.

Some of the news media took this to mean that Warren is calling for a minimum-wage increase to $22 an hour. That doesn't appear to be the case. She seems to be merely pointing out that the minimum wage has grown more slowly than other facets of the economy.

Warren is taking some hits on Twitter for her comments. One user describes her as "clueless and out of touch" while another calls her "delusional." But other users are praising her arguments as "compelling," saying she is "asking the right questions regarding minimum wage."

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Mar 18, 2013 9:42PM

Lets see, Congress in 1968 made $42,500. Now they scrape by making $172,000.

That is $82 an hour.


Too bad I can not vote myself a raise.

Mar 18, 2013 4:47PM
the point she was trying to make is that the workers pay is not increasing with the increase of productivity. NO ONE SUGGESTED RAISING MIN WAGE.
Mar 18, 2013 4:34PM

Wouldn't this also force companies to increase their prices to cover the additional payroll expenses?

Mar 18, 2013 4:44PM
So how much should McDonalds charge for their burgers if they pay some high school kid $20/hr?  The "dollar menu" would quickly become the "$3 menu".   Minimum wage work was intended for high school or college students or ex-cons.  And if you're not a student or ex-con, take minimum wage work only if it's a quick stepping stone to something better or a transitional position.  Minimum wages were never intended to be enough to support a family.  They were never intended to provide the basics for a  middle-class lifestyle.   If you're stuck working for the minimum wage, please don't procreate.  The rest of us are tired of paying for your responsibilities.

Mar 18, 2013 4:45PM

i have no problem if they  triple minimum wage, a term that surely describes the compensation for a minimally challenging line of work.


.... just so long as they triple my hard earned salary, the one i went to college and worked all those long hours for.

Mar 18, 2013 5:00PM

Maybe minimum wage is a misleading nomenclature.Maybe we should look at what it does.When a minimum wage is established then any company must pay that minimum(or get creative in their hiring{using contract workers etc.})

 On the other end of the scale,it makes companies paying higher wages want to reduce to the minimum.In both cases the workers are expected to perform at the top of their ability and productivity.At some points in our country's history companies rewarded the workers who did the best work,contributed to improving the product and helped the company gain market share.These dayss companies reward with the attitude "At least you have a job".Political affiliation aside the politicians take lobbyist money to vote for programs that have allowed and fostered this style of management without reguard to workers.Most companies now work like the goverment.They have little reguard for those who support them,expect their programs to be carried out,and attempt to profit maximum.It works so well for the goverment,why wouldn't companies follow their example.The trend now is to get everyone down to a subsistence level so that they will be greatful when they hear the "At least you have a job".


Mar 18, 2013 5:43PM
Now a $22 an hour min wage is a bit crazy, but it does need to be higher. I think a lot of people are out of touch with just how low $7.25 an hour is. You can not make it on that not at all.

 The thing is so many jobs today pay min wager or just a few dollars more. You need to make a $11 an hour or more full time just to make it, and what I mean is a roof over your head, a car to drive as not everyone can take a bus, food to eat and some type of health care.  This not include any type of life no going out to eat, no shopping, no vacation and no money to save.

 Back in the 60s you could make in on min wage in the 70s you could make on min wage, so what happened CEOs only made about 40 times more then the lowest paid employ  today about 400 to 500 times more. The money is there to pay more you just have to lower the pay at the top. Look at Costco the CEO makes $500,000 a year no one makes less then a $11.50. Look a Wal-Mart the CEO  makes $35 Million a year average employ makes less then $17,000 a year. 

Anyone who works full time should be able to have a life. You may think anyone who works these low pay jobs or high school drop outs but you would be very wrong many of them or college grads. 

So please stop hating so much have a heart, and give a damn for your fellow man. 
Mar 18, 2013 5:44PM
When CEO's get fired from places like oh say home depot Robert  Nardelli got 210 MILLION, Pfizer's Henry McKinnel got 213 million, Exxon Mobile's Lee Raymond got 351 million. Then you have the other "SUITS" making millions more. I beleive they could pay that much. If the top 1% of the company did not get all the money. The president earns a $400,000 annual salary, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment. These CEO's get more than the men do to run the whole country. It is absurd and grossly overpayment for a job not well done.
Mar 18, 2013 4:53PM
Reality is that wages have gone down and with inflation it's even greater. What we get now is 7 and 8 year auto loans 30 and 40 year mortgages. We don't  make more so why not just stretch the terms a bit longer? Problem solved. wait till Obama care rolls on in in 2014. Full time work will be limited and wages reduced further between lack of work, inflation and higher healthcare costs. I can't wait for the 60 year mortgage and a 12 year car loan.
Mar 18, 2013 4:41PM
If we are to maintain or even increase the gap between the haves and the have nots, and continue to destroy the middle class, we must continue to pay upper management hundreds, if not thousands of times as much money as we pay the workers who actually produce the product or service.  We can never allow minimum wage to become an amount that a person, let alone a family, can actually live on without having two or three jobs.  (Easy, folks.  It's called sarcasm.)
Mar 18, 2013 4:50PM

What this does not take into account is the reasons for the productivity increase.  For example, in 1968 there weren't desk top computers to or word processors, and there were almost no robotics in assembly line work. 

So I what criteria was used to determine an individuals productivity?  Can the high cost of automation be factored in?  And does that actually decrease the individuals "sweat equity" in the position?  None of this was addressed based on the article, nor was the cost of the automation.



Mar 18, 2013 5:33PM
Wow! So many dumb comments, please read the article again.
Mar 18, 2013 4:32PM
yep. in order to keep up with what ceo's make that should be minimum wage and most of it would go back into our economy instead of being horded.
Mar 18, 2013 4:28PM

Elizabeth Warren - an example of why I will never vote democrat.

Mar 18, 2013 5:22PM

I want my wife to stay home and raise our children. I have become more productive as a worker through technology but corporate america will not give me a raise based on how much more money i make them so both my wife and I have to work 50+ hours a week to survive! Who suffers? For one the children. Who gains? You got it the 1%ers.


So I guess





Mar 18, 2013 5:47PM
Who says productivity is up?  With advances in  technology, overall productivity may be up, but not individual productivity.  Now people think they should read the internet, put on makeup, eat at their desks, but then use their lunch to shop, socialize, and a myriad of other things besides work.  They come in late and leave early.  The only thing that makes productivity appear to be up in office work is that computers  replace carbon paper, and other forms of manual copying.  People don't really work hard.  Stress is much more, though.
Mar 18, 2013 5:06PM
It's called MINIMUM wage for a reason; it means exchanging labor for a minimum amount of compensation.  If you want more than the minimum amount of stuff, find a better job that pays more than the MINIMUM wage.  Funny how left-wing progressive politicians don't understand the basic definition of "MINIMUM".   But that's not a surprise - they don't understand the definition of "ILLEGAL", either.
Mar 18, 2013 4:33PM
The premise is too ridiculous to respond.
Mar 18, 2013 5:08PM

So if we are more productive then ever that means companys are doing the job with less people right? If that's so corporate america could take a big cut say 60% and still give the workers raises. Instead they're taking it ALL! They are not even giving you 5%. You get nada. Nothing. And you better like it or they will fire you. Sounds more and more like slave labor everyday.


The rich are getting richer. Bring back the unions!

Mar 18, 2013 4:34PM
why not 100K/year or a even a million for a McD worker?  I guess a hamburger would cost like $1000 in that case.
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