The U.S. federal government has a big role in running the country, but it should leave weighing-in on minimum wage hikes off the to-do list.
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“Alabama is different from Massachusetts. How can you have a national federal wage?” top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday during an interview on FOX Business’ Varney & Co. “The federal government shouldn’t have jurisdiction over the states anyway in a matter like this. The conditions are different in these states, the cost of living is different, the state of business is different,” he lamented.
While Kudlow is not a supporter of a minimum wage anyway, he has no problem with “fatter paychecks,” especially if they come from the private sector.
Amazon’s $15 per hour minimum wage hike kicked in Nov. 1 and extends to all U.S. employees, full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal. “He [Jeff Bezos] raised it for his private company, that’s great,” said Kudlow.
The bold move by the e-commerce giant has upped the pressure on other private businesses to do the same. Walmart and McDonald’s have been recent targets of liberal-leaning Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has called on the global giants to boost pay.
For Walmart’s part, it did boost pay in early January to $11 per hour. While the rate trails Amazon’s new rate, the nation’s largest employer did enhance its suite of benefits for the 1.5 million people it employs in the U.S. The discount retailer expanded maternity and parental leave benefits, while also providing a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates of up to $1,000, according to the January announcement. It also created an adoption benefit that covers $5,000 per child.
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Others such as Costco also recently defended pay and benefits. “Even though our starting wage is $14 to $14.50, an employee who’s been here over a number of years can get up into the equivalent of the mid-$40s to the mid-$50s on an hourly basis over time, on top of great health benefits,” said Richard Galanti, the warehouse retailer’s chief financial officer, responding to a question during an earnings call about Amazon’s wage increase as reported by FOX Business.
Wages will be in focus on Friday when the October jobs data gets released, unemployment is sitting at 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969. FOX Business has more on what to watch in the new numbers.
With the midterm elections next week, minimum wage is in focus in the Midwest. Missouri is looking for a jump to $12 per hour from $7.85, which will impact 677,000 residents, including working parents and senior citizens, according to Raise Up Missouri. For Arkansas, the hope is wages go to $11 from $8.50, as noted by Arkansans for a Fair Wage.
Suzanne O'Halloran is Managing Editor of FOXBusiness.com and is a graduate of Boston College. Follow her on Twitter @suzohalloran