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Guest view: An argument for minimum wage

Note to Readers: Hinsdale Central High School students wrote two editorials as part of their general economics course during their study of microeconomics this school year. They were learning about the positive and negative effects of government involvement in labor markets. Find the argument against minimum wage here.

Since the minimum wage was established in 1938, people have been arguing whether minimum wage is beneficial for America. For 75 years, critics have claimed that the minimum wage increases unemployment and that the minimum wage does not truly help support a family.

Getting rid of the minimum wage will reduce consumer purchasing power, reduce spending and hurt the overall economy. Also, studies by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, show that minimum wage does not increase unemployment, even in bad times.

According to the Business For A Fair Minimum Wage group, many companies, both large and small, are fighting for a minimum wage of at least $8.75 an hour.

By increasing workers’ take-home pay, families can gain both financial security and an increased ability to purchase goods and services. Greater purchasing power then will help create more jobs for the American people and allow family spending to increase.

The state minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25, while the national minimum wage is $7.25. Both of these wages are too low to be able to afford all of life’s everyday necessities. When these wages were originally put into effect, prices of supplies for normal living circumstances were much lower. Yet today, prices have reached their highest levels in eight years.

Lower income families and primary breadwinners are not the only ones who rely on a living wage.

It’s frightening to learn that college tuition and fees have gone up 119 percent in the last 30 years. Simultaneously, as Holly Sklar writes in “Social Justice,” the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has dropped 25 percent. This affects any young person hoping to attend a postsecondary institution, because they often work low-wage jobs to pay for higher education. Many ultimately will be left with the choice of massive debt or to continue a low-wage job that cannot truly sustain them.

(Meanwhile, the average CEO in 2007 made as much as 1,131 times the amount of money a minimum wage worker does per year.)

Minimum wages should be increased so that families don’t have to make the “heat or eat” decision. Low wages not only will affect the young people of our generation, but also the young of the next generation.

The minimum wage is there to help make our country better and more successful. If it continues to grow with the realities of today, our future will be even brighter.

Student authors Kristin Collins, Dale Belluomini, Russell Ferro and Alex Smith contributed to this column

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