Raising the Bar

Authors David Madland, Malkie Wall, and Alex Rowell detail how states and cities can set minimum compensation standards for private sector employees that reference prevailing wage and benefit rates.

Nearly all states and many cities set minimum wages for private sector employees operating within their jurisdictions. These laws are essential, as they particularly help the most vulnerable workers and ensure that pay does not fall below certain thresholds. But in this era of extreme economic inequality and concentrated economic power, many states and cities want to do more to improve conditions for working people—and they have the authority to do so.

There is one particular underutilized tool that states and cities should consider using as a complement to their universal minimum wage laws: the enactment of industry-specific, prevailing wage-style laws that apply to private sector employees. Under this approach, minimum compensation standards are set with reference to prevailing wage and benefit rates.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Malkie Wall

Research Associate

Alex Rowell

Policy Analyst