Hot-Button Issue: Minimum Wage


Approximately 10.1 million workers in this country now earn wages at or near the minimum of $5.15 an hour. These are the laborers most likely to be affected by an increase in the minimum wage, a central issue of this year’s presidential campaign. Economists speculate that if the minimum wage goes up, those already earning between $6.15 and $6.70 an hour would probably get raises, as employers try to maintain the margin over the new federally mandated rate.

Though it’s sometimes hard to distinguish one contender from another, there are differences in the positions of the four main contenders. Here’s a look at where they stand, shuffle, and hedge.

Reform candidate Pat Buchanan: Buchanan gives no specifics but in general supports some sort of increase from the current rate of $5.15 an hour—if the hike is accompanied by an iron-clad agreement to cut back immigration.

Republican candidate George W. Bush: Though Bush supports a federal increase of $1, he prefers to leave the matter to the states.

Democratic candidate Al Gore: Gore supports an increase of $1.

Green candidate Ralph Nader: Nader wants to increase the wage by $2.35 now, and make it subject to adjustment of inflation with a ceiling of $10 an hour.