Op-ed: Black businesses support raising the minimum wage. Why doesn’t the rest of Corporate America?

Raising the minimum wage is long overdue and the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for a living wage, writes Ron Busby.

Op-ed: Black businesses support raising the minimum wage. Why doesn’t the rest of Corporate America?

People gather together to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise workers wages to a $15 minimum wage as well as demanding the right to a union on May 23, 2019 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced the “American Rescue Plan” in January, which includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Since the president’s announcement, there has been extensive debate surrounding the minimum wage increase, particularly from the business community.

While much of the “American Rescue Plan” focuses on relief related to COVID-19, raising the minimum wage is long overdue and the pandemic has only exacerbated the need for a wage that can sustain American workers.

In the past 25 years, the minimum wage has only increased $2.50—from $4.75 an hour to $7.25 an hour—and the last increase was in 2009. Furthermore, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Black employees make up 31% of the workforce that would most benefit from an increased minimum wage.

Opponents of a minimum wage increase argue that it would hurt American businesses and force small and medium businesses to shed workers.

However, the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC) disagrees with this argument. The USBC, which represents 310,000 Black-owned businesses and 145 Black Chambers nationwide, understands that raising the minimum wage will have a significant impact on millions of Americans and their homes, in addition to reducing pay inequality by race and gender.

Even as 41% of Black-owned businesses closed due to COVID-19, Black business owners have continued to express support for an increase to the minimum wage because of the meaningful effect it would have in millions of American homes and in lifting families out of poverty.

The EPI estimates that “almost one in four (23%) of those who would benefit is a Black or Latina woman.”

The USBC met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen earlier this month to discuss the disproportionate affect COVID-19 has had on Black-owned businesses, and ways the Biden Administration is working to provide relief and assistance to the businesses that need it most.

Even as 41% of Black-owned businesses closed due to COVID-19, Black business owners have continued to express support for an increase to the minimum wage because of the meaningful effect it would have in millions of American homes and in lifting families out of poverty.

If the Black business community, which faces major obstacles outside of COVID-19, can get behind a $15 an hour minimum wage, why can’t the rest of corporate America?

Raising the minimum wage will not be easy for businesses but it is a significant step in bringing financial stability to parts of America that have long been overlooked.

In fact, Black-owned businesses may see slower growth based on the number of employees they can afford to pay (in addition to having less access to capital) but that isn’t stopping the community from rising to the challenge.

Corporate America, let’s make a $15 minimum wage happen by 2025.

 Ron Busby is president of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.