Louisiana is one of only five states without a state minimum wage, meaning many workers in our state are stuck at the $7.25 federal minimum wage that has not been raised since 2009. In the 12 years since Congress last raised the minimum wage, increases in the cost of living have eroded its value by about 27%. 

But Louisiana workers don’t have to be stuck at the bottom. Two bills are pending in the state Senate to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour: Senate Bill 7, which would raise the wage gradually until 2026; and Senate Bill 49, which would make the increase immediate starting on Jan. 1. Both of these bills would bring immediate and long-lasting benefits to a large segment of the state’s workforce that has been struggling for years. 

An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute shows that nearly 1 in 3 Louisiana workers – about 629,000 people – would get a pay raise under Senate Bill 49, which makes the $15 an hour wage effective on Jan. 1. 

Senate Bill 7 would raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2022, and provides for additional increases of $2 an hour every other year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2026. EPI estimates that this would eventually affect 33.5% of Louisiana workers. This includes people making less than $15 an hour who would see an immediate raise, and people making slightly above that rate who would see a wage increase thanks to a higher wage floor.

Both of these bills would raise wages for more than 30% of women working in Louisiana, more than 40% of Black workers, and more than 70% of families living in poverty. 

Opponents of raising the minimum wage like to claim that it would reduce employment. But recent research into the real-world effects of wage increases suggests that these fears are overblown. As economist Arindrajit Dube wrote in The Washington Post

Comparing states that increased their minimum wages with states that did not, we found the change in employment (in the five years after the change occurred) took place in a narrow band around the new minimum wage: Understandably, jobs paying below the minimum decreased — since wages rose. But at least as many jobs were added at the new, higher wage — meaning jobs were upgraded, not destroyed. All told, the number of low wage jobs barely budged. This finding held when we looked at populations of special concern — people with fewer educational credentials, for instance, or young workers. 

Other critics claim that the minimum wage is an “entry-level” wage intended for teens working part-time. But most minimum wage earners are adults, and workers across Louisiana rely on the minimum wage to pay rent, buy food and raise children. 

What we do know is that raising the minimum wage can reduce poverty and bolster the economy. Many Louisianans have gone long enough on the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. It’s time to give them a raise.