Volume 30

Not Surviving, but Thriving: Indexing to the Cost of Living

by Mohammed Hossain

Minimum wage laws are among the most important laws that impact the livelihood of low-wage workers. Indeed, as Gandhi stated, “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” New York’s minimum wage has been capped at $15 for most workers since 2018 because the traditional approach to raising it requires grassroots advocacy to compel legislators to manually raise minimum wage floors. This approach takes a great deal of time, energy, resources, and requires ongoing advocacy.

This note proposes that New York should develop a true Cost of Living Index to automatically adjust the minimum wage based on what it realistically costs not just to survive, but to thrive. This note aims to synthesize legal, political, and economic perspectives for the implementation of a true Cost of Living Index. It will hopefully serve as one more voice in the crowd, offering a simple but practical solution to the never-ceasing fight for a minimum wage that respects the basic dignity and humanity of working people.

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