Paul DeCamp, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was quoted in Law360 Employment Authority, in “As State Minimum Wages Rise, Fewer Workers at Fed. Floor,” by Max Kutner. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

The relevance of the federal minimum wage, which trails the floor in more than half of U.S. states, remains up for debate, as a recent government report says the share of hourly workers making that national amount continues to decline.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics said in an annual report in late May that just 1.1% of hourly workers made the federal minimum wage or lower in 2023, down from 1.3% the year prior and 1.4% the year before that. The floor has been at $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Employment law observers attributed the decrease to higher minimum wages in 30 states and the District of Columbia, a development they said has had the effect of raising the lowest wages even in places without a higher rate than the federal one.

States are better suited to set minimum wages, because what works in one part of the country might not work in another, said Paul DeCamp of management-side firm Epstein Becker Green.

"What we've seen is the states step in and raise their own local levels in ways that more finely calibrate the wage levels to their local circumstances," said DeCamp, a former DOL Wage and Hour Division administrator. "In a perfect world, we wouldn't need a federal minimum wage." …

As of February, 27 states, including Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, had preemption laws barring local governments from raising floors above the statewide rate, according to a tally by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

The minimum wage debate is set to continue as voters weigh ballot measures this fall to increase statewide rates, including in Alaska and potentially in Ohio, Missouri and Arizona. Both Ohio and Missouri have Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures, while Arizona has a Republican-run legislature and a Democratic governor, and Alaska has a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled state Senate but a split state House.

"It's mainly, these days, a state-law issue," said DeCamp, who was DOL Wage and Hour Division administrator when Congress last passed legislation to raise the minimum wage, in 2007. "That's where the action has been for, frankly, a long time now."

At the federal level, legislation remains pending to increase the national floor, though observers believe it is unlikely to pass in the current Congress.

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