Advocates push minimum wage raise for Louisiana

By By John Guidroz / American Press

Raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour is needed to jump-start the national economy and reduce poverty

levels statewide, Jan Muller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, said Wednesday.

Muller, along with other state and

national policy analysts, spoke during a conference call about the

economic benefits of

raising the minimum wage. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep.

George Miller, D-Calif., introduced legislation earlier this

year that would raise the wage to $10.10 an hour over two years

and would be indexed to account for increases to the cost-of-living

and inflation rates. The federal minimum wage was last increased

in 2009.

While Louisiana’s unemployment rate is below the national average, Muller said its poverty rate is one of the highest in the

nation. “We have jobs in this state, but a lot of them pay low wages,” he said.

Carrie Wooten, director of research and policy with Louisiana Progress, said women make up 70 percent of those working at

or below minimum wage in the state.

“Women are often working in primary bread-winning positions in families,” she said. “Raising the minimum wage would have an

immediate impact on those women who are working but are living in poverty.”

Louisiana, along with four other states, does not have any minimum wage laws, Muller said. While employers must pay workers

the federal minimum wage, state lawmakers could introduce legislation to increase it.

“We shouldn’t wait for the federal government,” he said. “I certainly hope it comes up for discussion during the (legislative)

session.”

A Louisiana Budget Project study showed that while Louisiana workers are 35 percent more productive than they were in 1979,

the median wage is up only 1 percent from that time.

“We see development up and down the Mississippi River, but that growth has not been passed onto workers,” Muller said.

Ben Olinsky, senior fellow for economic policy with the Center for American Progress, said that raising the minimum wage “is

not just a matter of fairness,” but creates “a virtuous cycle of prosperity.”

“We should put more money in the hands of hard-working Americans so they can put that money back into the economy,” he said.

“A stronger economy will lead to stronger jobs, and taxpayers will spend less on poverty programs.”

Wooten said Louisiana Progress is working on a petition to send to Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. Olinsky

said senators could discuss the issue early next month.