DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: During last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama made the controversial declaration that he would sign an executive order raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers. Notably absent from his speech was any mention of the fastest-growing industry in America, an industry that has consistently and voluntarily paid its workers above the minimum wage, even at lower skilled entry level positions.
In 1980, the federal minimum wage was $3.10 per hour, which adjusted for inflation would be about $8.76 today. The current minimum wage has been so devalued in terms of cost of living that one in every six Americans live below the federal poverty level. Assuming an employee is working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year (no vacation or days off), she would earn a yearly salary of approximately $15,000. A yearly salary of $15,000 is considered pretty poor in almost any region, but even then a single American is not considered to be in poverty by federal guidelines unless they are earning $11,490 a year or less.
In 2012, two states legalized recreational sales of marijuana. In 2014, we have seen legal recreational sales begin in Colorado and are anticipating the start in Washington State. California has toyed with legalization since 2010, and although recreational sales aren’t yet legal, the medical industry has created a wealth of jobs that pay above the minimum wage even for entry level and unskilled labor positions. Most legally operated and regulated dispensaries also offer benefits and opportunity for advancement.