PolitiFact: Evans’ minimum-wage claim accurate but needs context

Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Evans CURTIS COMPTON/ccompton@ajc.com

caption arrowCaption
Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Evans CURTIS COMPTON/ccompton@ajc.com

Georgia "has the lowest minimum wage in the country."

— Stacey Evans on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in campaign website

Stacey Evans, a Democrat running to be Georgia’s next governor, claims workers are at an economic disadvantage in part because of the state’s minimum wage.

“I want Georgia to be the best place to work, live, and raise a family. Right now, it isn’t,” Evans said on her campaign website.

We wondered if Georgia has the lowest minimum wage in the nation, as she says.

It does, but it's not alone (tied with Wyoming), and most hourly wage employees are paid above the state's minimum wage. Georgia's state law sets the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour, but the federal Fair Labor Standards Act applies, meaning most employees are covered under the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

“Like Georgia, Wyoming also has a $5.15 minimum wage, the lowest in the country. And while, thankfully, many Georgians are protected by a federal wage floor, many Georgians are not,” said Adam Ney, research director for the Evans campaign. “The fact remains that Georgia has the lowest minimum wage in the country and that we must increase it because everybody deserves a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work.”

Who doesn't get the federal minimum wage? There are exemptions in the law for certain farm workers, seasonal workers, health aides, and workers who receive tips.

In 2016, Georgia had about 2.3 million workers paid hourly rates, and 51,000 of them (or 2.2 percent) were paid below the federal minimum wage, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An estimated 90,000, or 3.9 percent, were paid no more than the federal minimum wage.

Overall, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina had the highest percentages of hourly paid workers earning at or below the federal minimum wage, about 5 percent, BLS said.

Georgia is one of seven states that have either a lower state minimum wage than the federal standard, or no state minimum wage at all, said Wesley Tharpe, research director at the left-leaning think tank Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“In practice, the vast majority of workers in every state are subject to the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour,” Tharpe said.

Our ruling

Georgia’s minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is the lowest in the nation, but Wyoming also has the same minimum wage. Most of Georgia’s workers paid hourly rates earn the federal minimum of $7.25 or more.

Evans' statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate it Mostly True.