The current Montana minimum wage of $8.75 per hour is a poverty wage.
If someone earning the minimum wage in Montana is fortunate enough to be able to work full-time hours (and many are not), she or he would earn only $18,200/ year, which is 84% of the federal poverty line for a family of two. The percentage of people in households supported by a low-wage worker living in or near poverty in Montana is 29.1%. It’s crystal clear that at the current minimum wage, Montana workers struggle paycheck-to-paycheck.
We need to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Montana, linked to cost-of-living increases so that the lowest-paid among us are unable to earn a living wage. More than half of all workers in Montana make less than $15/hr, and a $15/hr minimum wage in Montana would raise yearly wages to $31,200 annually. Furthermore, one in four working Montana women would get a raise if the minimum is lifted to $15.
This would lift tens of thousands of Montanans out of poverty not to mention save millions in taxpayer dollars.
How will small business cope you ask? When it comes to raising wages, most if not all pieces of $15 legislation are tiered over several years to lessen the burden on small businesses. Consumers will have more money to spend, thus creating a ripple effect throughout the market.
The current minimum wage in Montana is simply not enough. We have much work to do to ensure a fair and just society – and raising the minimum wage in Montana to make it a living wage is part of it.
It is time to do right by working Montanans; and raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15/hr. Whether if it's passed through Congress or done here in Montana, working Montanans need a raise. Too many working people in Montana are not paid enough to afford the basics, and Montana families can’t wait.
Andy Boyd, Bozeman