Almanac: A higher wage

Almanac: Minimum wage 02:12

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: January 5th, 1914, 100 years ago today . . . a milestone for American labor.

For that was the day Henry Ford made front page news by sharing profits and DOUBLING the pay of his auto workers to a previously unheard of $5 per DAY.

"Even the boy that sweeps up the floors will get that much," The New York Times reported.

Though some in the business world grumbled over his largesse, Ford had his reasons for doubling pay.

A news account of Henry Ford's decision in 1914 to raise employees' salaries to $5 a day. CBS News

High wages would help assure the loyalty of his workers, he reasoned, not to mention make it possible for them to actually buy the cars they were building on his assembly lines.

Within days, thousands of would-be employees had gathered hopefully outside Ford's factory.

Within two years, Ford's profits had doubled along with the pay.

Though a voluntary act by just one company, Ford's $5 per day helped legitimize the still-controversial notion of a uniform minimum wage.

In 1938, Congress approved the Fair Labor Standards Act, establishing the first nationwide minimum wage: 25 cents an hour.

Over the years, that federal minimum has increased in fits and starts to the current $7.25 per hour . . . falling far short of the rate of inflation, according to labor advocates who say an upward revision is long overdue.

Though business groups argue that increasing the wage would discourage hiring, 69 percent of Americans support boosting it to at least $9 an hour, according to a recent CBS News Poll.

And as of the New Year, 21 states have enacted higher minimums of their own, with Washington State topping the list, at $9.32 per hour -- which works out to $74.56 for an 8-hour shift, almost 15 times Henry Ford's $5 per day. 


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