$15 minimum wage opposition 'doesn't make any sense to me,' Labor Secretary Walsh says

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As of the new year, 21 states and 35 cities across the country raised their minimum wages.

Amid the victory for workers and wage advocates, one member of the president’s cabinet isn't sure why it hasn’t taken off throughout the nation.

“I can’t understand why somebody is against a $15 an hour minimum wage — a baseline minimum wage for families,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Yahoo Finance (video above). “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

For someone working 40 hours a week, a $15 minimum wage comes out to $31,200 a year before taxes.

Many business leaders — particularly small business owners — have spoken out against raising the minimum wage, arguing that it would hurt their businesses and force them to make cuts.

Walsh, however, disagrees with that assessment.

“It doesn’t hurt business. If you look at the states where the minimum wage is $15 an hour or look at the companies that have raised their minimum wage to $15, sometimes $25 [or] $18, those companies are raising their wages because they’re doing great,” he said. “They’re not raising their wages because they’re going out of business.”

'We'll see some benefits'

The federal minimum wage hasn’t changed since 2009, meaning that it has fallen far behind inflation.

Part of the reason why many companies have been raising wages over the past year and a half is due to nationwide labor shortages that have left employers struggling to attract and retain talent.

Corporations like Amazon (AMZN), Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan (JPM), and Target (TGT) have all raised their minimum wage to at least $15 an hour as part of that effort.

“States aren’t going out of business and losing business because of that,” Walsh said. “So I don’t understand why we don’t have a $15 an hour federal minimum wage right now in our country.”

In 48 states and D.C., a person would need to make more than $15 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom rental in the U.S. And in 24 states and D.C., they would need to earn above $20/hour, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is an ardent supporter of raising the federal minimum wage. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh is an ardent supporter of raising the federal minimum wage. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“The Department of Labor did raise the minimum wage for federal employees this year,” Walsh said. “It went into effect on Jan. 1, and I think we’ll see some benefits to that, at least for the families.”

Throughout 2022, a total of 81 cities and states will increase their minimum wages, including the 44 cities adopting $15 an hour minimum wages.

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow her on Twitter @adrianambells and reach her at adriana@yahoofinance.com.

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