In Part 1 of this report, we look at the portion of the U.S. workforce that currently earns less than $15 per hour in the United States. Our findings include the following:
- Forty-two (42) percent of U.S. workers make less than $15 per hour.
- Women and people of color are overrepresented in jobs paying less than a $15 wage. Female workers account for 54.7 percent of those making less than $15 per hour while making up less than half of the overall U.S. workforce (48.3 percent). African Americans make up about 12 percent of the total workforce, and they account for 15 percent of the sub-$15-wage workforce. Similarly, Latinos constitute 16.5 percent of the workforce, but account for almost 23 percent of workers making less than $15 per hour.
- More than half of African-American workers and close to 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15.
- About half (46.4 percent) of workers making less than $15 per hour are ages 35 and older.
- Two states—Arkansas and Mississippi—have median wages of less than $15 per hour. Four other states—Tennessee, Montana, Kentucky, and South Dakota—have $15 median wages.
- Food preparation and serving occupations have the greatest concentration of workers making less than a $15 wage. Other occupation groups in which such jobs are concentrated include farming, fishing, and forestry; personal care and service; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; healthcare support; sales; and transportation and moving. In these occupations, more than 50 percent of workers make less than $15 per hour.
- Retail salespersons is the largest occupation with median wages of less than $15 per hour, with at least three million people in the United States making less than a $15 wage in that job. The next-largest occupations in this category are cashiers, combined food preparation and serving workers, and office s.
- Six out of the ten largest occupations with median wages less $15 also rank among the occupations projected to add the most jobs in coming years. These are retail salespersons; combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food; laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand; janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners; nursing assistants; and personal care aides.
- The top industries for sub-$15 work are food services and drinking places, private households, agriculture, personal and laundry services, (hotel/motel) accommodation, retail trade, and administrative and support services. In these industries, more than 60 percent of workers make less than $15 per hour.
In Part 2, we take a closer look at the largest front-line occupations in six industries—restaurants/bars, retail, child care, auto manufacturing, home care, and hotels—and find the following:
- Even after accounting for tips, more than four out of five (83.8 percent) front-line workers in all food service and drinking places make less than a $15 wage.
- The overwhelming majority—96 percent—of fast-food workers make less than $15 an hour.
- Four out of five workers in both retail and hotel/motel accommodation front-line occupations make less than $15 per hour.
- Automotive manufacturing jobs have long been seen as well paid, but we find that about half of front-line automotive manufacturing workers make below $15.
- Almost 90 percent of people working in home care and child care make less than $15 per hour.
- Front-line, low-wage jobs in these industries are predominately filled by women. A majority of workers in these occupations—more than 70 percent of front-line workers in fast food, 74 percent in hotel/motel accommodation, and 53 percent in retail—are female.
- Although front-line retail jobs are often seen as jobs held by young people, almost half of workers in these occupations are age 35 or older.
- Unionization rates are low—ranging from about 2 to 10 percent—for front-line workers in these industries, with the exception of auto manufacturing, in which more than one in four workers are union.
In Part 3, we review recent economic research on wage floors, profile the experiences of localities and employers that are transitioning to $15 wages, and give an overview of recent and current $15 wage policy campaigns. We find the following:
- Both the most rigorous research and the actual on-the-ground experiences of localities and employers suggest that pay in the affected jobs can be upgraded to $15 without any significant adverse effect on employment.
- In eight states, various localities and employers have already adopted policies raising their base pay to approximately $15 per hour. Policy campaigns are currently underway in at least eight more cities and four more states to increase minimum wages to at least $15.
Finally, in Part 4, we offer concrete recommendations for action by federal, state, and local policymakers, and private-sector leaders seeking to continue shifting our economy back toward better-paying jobs. Those recommendations include the following:
- Phasing the minimum wage up to $15, as cities such as San Francisco and Seattle have done, with others such as Los Angeles poised to follow.
- Adopting $15 minimum wages for key low-wage industries such as fast food, large retail, hotels, caregiving, property services, and airport workers, as several cities have done and states are now beginning to propose.
- Issuing executive orders or wage laws raising the minimum wage to $15 for businesses receiving taxpayer-funded contracts or subsidies.
- Raising wages for low-paid city, state, or federal employees to $15, as growing numbers of public bodies are doing.
- Raising private-sector pay scales to $15, as employers from Aetna to the Johns Hopkins Hospital have done.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Growing Movement for $15 – National Employment Law Project.