Amazon officials, amid criticism over low wages and tough working conditions, announced on Tuesday that 350,000 employees will be getting more in their checks starting next month.
According to Jay Carney, senior vice president of Amazon global corporate affairs, not only will the company set a minimum wage of $15 for all its U.S. employees, it will work to raise minimum pay for everyone in the United States.
"We intend to advocate for a minimum wage increase that will have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people and families across this country," Carney said in a statement.
A public policy team created by the company hopes to lobby for an increase in the federal minimum wage standard, Carney said.
What is the minimum wage and how is it administered?
Here’s a look at where the minimum wage came from and why we have it.
The Fair Labors Standards Act of 1938 established a federal minimum wage or the minimum amount a person must be paid by the hour. It was created to help stabilize the country following the Great Depression of the 1930s.
What does the FLSA do?
The FLSA requires certain industries to pay a minimum wage for employees, pay overtime for work that exceeds a certain number of hours, restrict employment of children and require the company to keep records of hours worked.
To whom does the FLSA apply?
In general, the FLSA applies to companies that have an annual dollar volume of sales or business of at least $500,000. The FLSA also applies to hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools, preschools and government agencies.
In addition, the act applies to employees if their work regularly involves them in commerce between states (interstate commerce). This is a broad category and, according to the Department of Labor, “includes employees who produce goods (such as a worker assembling components in a factory or a secretary typing letters in an office) that will be sent out of state, regularly make telephone calls to persons located in other states, handle records of interstate transactions, travel to other states on their jobs, and do janitorial work in buildings where goods are produced for shipment outside the state.”
Housekeepers, full-time babysitters and cooks, in addition to other domestic service workers, are normally covered by the law, according to the Department of Labor.
How much is the minimum wage now?
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. When the FLSA was passed in 1938, the minimum wage was .25 cents an hour for covered workers. The wage has been raised 22 times since then. It was last raised in 2009.
How much does that add up to annually?
Assuming a 40-hour work week, the annual salary for someone making minimum wage would be $15,080.
Does the minimum wage keep you above the poverty level?
It depends on the size of your family. A single person under the age of 65 is considered to be living below the poverty level if they are making less than $12,486. If you are married or have one other person in your household, the poverty level is $16,151, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That household would be below the poverty level.
Can minimum wage workers qualify for federal assistance programs?
Yes, many can and do. Most federal assistance programs are based on the proportion of household income and size to the federal poverty level.
How many people does it cover?
The act applies to around 84 percent of the labor force or 130 million workers.
Can states set their own minimum wage?
Yes, they can. However, for employees covered under the FLSA, the federal minimum of $7.25 applies. Most states that have minimum wage laws have set a wage above the federal minimum.
Which states have a minimum wage law?
Fourteen states and three U.S. territories have minimum wage laws that are the same as the federal minimum wage law.
Five states have no state minimum wage law and follow the federal government’s minimum wage standard. Those states are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Two states, Georgia and Wyoming, have laws that set minimum wage lower than the federal minimum wage. Both Georgia and Wyoming set the minimum wage for employees not covered by FLSA at $5.15.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have set minimum wages higher then the $7.25 federal minimum wage.
Click here to see your state’s minimum wage laws.
Which states have the highest minimum wage?
Here are the 10 states (plus Washington, D.C., and the District of Columbia) with the highest state minimum wages:
1. Washington, D.C. – $12.50/hr
2. Washington – $11.50/hr
3. California – $11.00/hr
4. Massachusetts – $11.00/hr
5. Arizona – $10.50/hr
6. Vermont– $10.50/hr
7. New York – $10.40/hr
8. Colorado – $10.20/hr
9. Connecticut – $10.10/hr
10. Hawaii – $10.10/hr
Who is exempt under FLSA?
Some workers are not covered by the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions. Here, according to the Department of Labor, is a list of some of those workers and from what they are exempt. For a list of other exempted employees, click here.
(MW = minimum wage, OT = overtime and CL = child labor)
- Aircraft salespeople - OT
- Airline employees - OT
- Amusement/recreational employees in national parks/forests/Wildlife Refuge System - OT
- Babysitters on a casual basis - MW and OT
- Boat salespeople - OT
- Buyers of agricultural products - OT
- Companions for the elderly - MW and OT
- Country elevator workers (rural) - OT
- Workers with disabilities - MW
- Domestic employees who live-in - OT
- Farm implement salespeople - OT
- Federal criminal investigators - MW and OT
- Firefighters working in small (less than five firefighters) public fire departments - OT
- Fishing - MW and OT
- Forestry employees of small (less than nine employees) firms - OT
- Fruit and vegetable transportation employees - OT
- Homeworkers making wreaths - MW, OT and CL
- Houseparents in nonprofit educational institutions- OT
- Livestock auction workers - OT
- Local delivery drivers and driver's helpers - OT
- Lumber operations employees of small (less than nine employees) firms - OT
- Motion picture theater employees - OT
- Newspaper delivery - MW, OT and CL
- Newspaper employees of limited circulation newspapers - MW and OT
- Police officers working in small (less than five officers), public police departments - OT
- Radio station employees in small markets - OT
- Railroad employees - OT
- Seamen on American vessels - OT
- Seamen on other than American vessels - MW and OT
- Sugar-processing employees - OT
- Switchboard operators - MW and OT
- Taxicab drivers - OT
- Television station employees in small markets - OT
- Truck and trailer salespeople - OT
- Youth employed as actors or performers - CL
- Youth employed by their parents - CL
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