The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A guide to all of Donald Trump’s flip-flops on the minimum wage

(Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

The folly of fact-checking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s stances on policy proposals is that he believes “you need flexibility” and “everything is negotiable.” Of course policymakers make compromises, but Trump’s “flexibility” has left him contradicting himself on several policy issues on the campaign trail.

One such issue is the federal minimum wage. During last week’s Democratic National Convention, Democrats repeatedly attacked him for claiming, early in the campaign season, that “wages are too high.” But Trump has clarified this point since then and has made numerous other claims about the minimum wage. (Hillary Clinton also has shifted to embrace a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, with stipulations.) Trump’s various flip-flops on the minimum wage reminded us of this 2007 compilation by Fact Checker founder Michael Dobbs on then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s shifts on abortion.

As a reader service, we compiled Trump’s shifts on the federal minimum wage over the past year. At times, he appeared to conflate the state and federal minimum wages, making us wonder whether he even understands the distinction. (The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and more than half of the states have raised it higher than that).

The net result is that, if elected president, no matter the decision Trump makes on the minimum wage, he certainly can claim he’s being consistent with his previous stance — since he has been on nearly every side of the issue. We will continue updating this list as necessary.

August 2015

Trump opposes raising the federal minimum wage.

Trump: “I want to create jobs so that you don’t have to worry about the minimum wage. They’ll do a great job that they’re making much more than the minimum wage. But I think having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.”
— Morning Joe, Aug. 20, 2015
Chuck Todd: “What’s a living wage? What’s fair?”
Trump: “I want to keep the minimum wage pretty much where it is right now —”
Todd: “You wouldn’t raise it?”
Trump: “— because of the fact that we have a country that is now competing more than ever before because of airplanes and transportation and the Internet.”
Todd: “So you think we got to keep the minimum wage lower?”
Trump: “Well I want to compete with the rest of the world. I want to compete with the rest of the world. What I do want to do is bring in jobs so much so that people don’t have to live on minimum wage. But we are going to have to compete with the rest of the world.”
Meet the Press, Aug. 28, 2015 (around 29-minute mark) 

Nov. 10-11, 2015

Trump opposes raising the state minimum wage, specifically New York’s proposal to raise its minimum to $15 an hour. On both days, Trump says wages are “too high.”

Neil Cavuto: “Just a few hours ago, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing the same for all state workers, the first governor to do so [raise the minimum wage to $15]. Mr. Trump, as the leading presidential candidate on this stage and one whose tax plan exempts couples making up to $50,000 a year from paying any federal income taxes at all, are you sympathetic to the protesters cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year?”
Trump: “I can’t be, Neil. And the and the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.
But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we cannot do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.”
Cavuto: “So do not raise the minimum wage?”
Trump: “I would not do it.”
Republican debate on Fox News, Nov. 10, 2015 
Mika Brzezinski: “Last night I heard you say you would keep the minimum wage as is, you would not raise it. … Do you have people working for you making $7.50 an hour? No.”
Trump: “Yeah, probably, maybe I do somewhere along the line. I got thousands of people. But you know what? We have to become competitive with the world. Our taxes are too high, our wages are too high. Everything is too high. We have to compete with other countries, and if we’re going to just say hey, I just seen in New York where they made it $15, well you’re going to —”
Brzezinski: “Our wages are not — I mean, you can argue our wages are flat.”
Trump: “Listen to this. What’s going to happen is now people are going to start firing people because they’re going to — You know, the old story. It’s happened a hundred times. It’s always happening. But I’m not even saying from that standpoint, Mika. We have got to do something to compete with the rest of the world. Our country is not competitive anymore.”
— Morning Joe, Nov. 11, 2015

Nov. 12, 2015

Trump supports raising the minimum wage to $15, but it is unclear whether he is making a distinction between the federal or state minimum wages. He denies saying that wages are “too high,” clarifying he was referring to the minimum wage, not wages in general. This is a reversal from Nov. 10-11, earning an upside-down Pinocchio.

Bret Baier: In the debate, you said wages are too high. What do you say to somebody in South Carolina where the median per capita income is only about $24,000 and wages are stagnant and costs are going up?
Trump: I didn’t say that. Bret, we were talking about the minimum wage. … They said should we increase the minimum wage? And I’m saying that if we’re going to compete with other countries, we can’t do that because the wages would be too high. … I’ll say raise the minimum wage to $15. Raise the minimum wage to whatever it might be. But the problem we have is that our country is losing businesses. You look at corporate inversions and all the things that are happening. We have to compete with the rest of the world.
The question was about the minimum wage. I’m not talking about wages being too high, I’m talking about minimum wage. And that was the question.
–Fox News, Nov. 12, 2015


December 2015

Trump says wages are “too low.” Trump responds to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s attack that he opposes raising the federal minimum wage.

April 2016

Trump opposes raising the federal minimum wage, and does not support New York raising its minimum wage to $15. This is a reversal from Nov. 12, earning another Upside-Down Pinocchio.

Question: “What are your thoughts on minimum wage and the Fight for 15 movement [to raise federal minimum wages]?”
Trump: “Okay, you know, the minimum wage is a very, very complex situation, because we are a noncompetitive country. We — if you look at what’s going on throughout the world, we’re considered — and one of the big problems we have are wages. I am going to make our country so competitive that people at minimum wage are going to escape the minimum wage. They’re going to go up and they’re going to make a lot of money and they’re going to have companies and be involved with companies that are really successful, where they can be paid more and more money. But if you start raising that minimum wage, you’re going to make a lot of our companies even more noncompetitive. And it would be a big, big problem.”
The Citizen: “The New York state budget raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years. Stagnant wages are obviously a concern. How would the Trump administration address this issue?”
Trump: “I’m going to make sure that people are making much more money because we’re going to bring so many jobs back that we’re not going to have to be worrying about minimum wage so much. We’re going to be bringing the jobs back where people can really make a good living, not just a minimum wage living. I’m going to be bringing so many jobs back into this state and I’m going to be focused very strongly on the state. It’s a state I love. We’re going to bring jobs back so that people can really get out there and make a tremendous living again. You look at wages, they effectively haven’t gone up in close to 20 years. We’re going to bring so much competition back and so many jobs back that people are going to make a far better living than anything you can even talk about with respect to minimum wage.”

May 4, 2016

Trump is open to raising the federal minimum wage, and says he is “very different from most Republicans” in believing someone can’t survive on $7.25, the federal minimum wage. This is consistent with his stance on Nov. 12 and in December 2015, but inconsistent with his stance in April, earning yet another Upside-Down Pinocchio.

Wolf Blitzer: Bernie Sanders says he wants $15 an hour minimum wage. And he has really gone after you lately, saying you’re happy with $7.25, the current federal minimum wage. You can’t live on $7.25.
Trump: I’m actually looking at that. I’m very different from most Republicans. You have to have something you can live on. … Now, if you start playing around too much with the lower number, you’re not going to be competitive. […]
Blitzer: Hillary Clinton says she’s ready to go to $12. Bernie Sanders says $15. Give me a number. If you were president, what would you recommend?
Trump: I’m looking at it.
Blitzer: But you’re opening to raising the minimum wage?
Trump: I’m open to doing something with it, because I don’t like that [$7.25 federal minimum wage].

May 8, 2016

Four days later, he opposes having any federal minimum wage at all. Instead, he is now open to states setting, and raising, minimum wages on their own.

George Stephanopoulos: “Minimum wage — all through the primaries, you were against an increase. Now you’re saying you’re looking at it. So what’s your bottom line on this?”
Trump: “Well, I am looking at it and I haven’t decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more.”
Stephanopoulos: “But that’s a change from where you were during the primary.”
Trump: “Well, sure it’s a change. I’m allowed to change. You need flexibility, George, whether it’s a tax plan where you’re going to — where you know you’re going to negotiate. But we’re going to come up with something. But my real minimum wage is going to be — I’m going to bring companies back into this country and they’re going to make a lot more than the $15 even. They’re going to make a lot more than that.”
Chuck Todd: “Minimum wage. Minimum wage. At a debate, you know. You remember what you said. You thought you didn’t want to touch it. Now you’re open to it. What changed?”
Trump: “Let me just tell you, I’ve been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16th. I’m all over. Today I’m in the state of Washington, where the arena right behind me, you probably hear, is packed with thousands and thousands of people. I’m doing that right after I finish you.
I have seen what’s going on. And I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don’t forget, the states have to compete with each other. So you may have a governor —”
Todd: “Right. You want the fed — but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states —”
Trump: “No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just — I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.”

May 11, 2016

Trump says he is asking for an increase to the federal minimum wage, returning to his May 4 stance and reversing his stance from May 8 — earning his fourth upside-down Pinocchio.

May 18, 2016

Trump wants states to set their own minimum wages, but he does not clearly support their doing so. PolitiFact Virginia noted a Seattle radio interview in which Trump said states that raised their wages may become noncompetitive with other states.

“I actually think that the states should make the decision,” Trump said in the interview. “Here’s what’s going to happen. … All of a sudden, in some cases, states are going to become noncompetitive, and they’re going to start losing maybe jobs and losing business, and they’re going to have to readjust. Otherwise, they’re just not going to have anything.”

May 23, 2016

Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, tells the Washington Examiner that “the ideal solution is for the states to choose the wage floor that makes the most sense for their unique economic circumstances.”

Miller says Trump’s position on federal minimum wage is linked to his position on trade and immigration, indicating Trump would be open to using the minimum wage as a negotiating factor on trade and immigration policy. “In all three cases, he wants to prevent any foreign competition. The problem with setting a high minimum wage is that raising labor costs makes immigrant labor and offshoring more attractive to U.S. businesses,” the Examiner wrote.

July 26, 2016

Trump supports raising the federal minimum wage to $10, and states setting their wages higher. A campaign official told The Fact Checker that Trump “supports the minimum wage as an entry training wage, and as such should not be increased to $15 since it becomes a barrier to entry-level employment.” Trump also said he supports New York raising its minimum wage beyond $7.25 — a reversal from April, earning a fifth Upside-Down Pinocchio.

He claimed on Fox News that he never said he wanted to go “less than minimum wage,” a reversal from his May 8 claim that he believes in having no federal minimum wage.

Bill O’Reilly: What about the minimum wage? You got hammered on that by Bernie Sanders last night. What’s your vision for a federal minimum wage? How much?
Trump: Well, he lied last night. … He said I wanted to go less than minimum wage. This is a new one, because I’m the one Republican that said in some cases we have to go more than minimum wage.
O’Reilly: Give me a number.
Trump: Let me give you a concept, because I think it’s a good concept. You go with the states. Let the states make the determination, because, if you take New York, it’s very expensive to live in New York. And they need more than $7, $8, $9. You go with the states.
O’Reilly: The states have the authority now to do that. There has to be a federal minimum wage. What would you set the federal minimum wage?
Trump: There doesn’t have to be. Well, I would leave it and raise it somewhat. You need to help people — and I know it’s not very Republican to say.
O’Reilly: Give me a number. Ten [dollars]?
Trump: I would say 10. I would say 10.
— interview on Fox News


July 27, 2016

In a news conference, Trump again says he wants a $10 federal minimum, and letting states raising it beyond that floor.

“The minimum wage has to go up. People are — at least $10, but it has to go up. But I think that states — federal — I think that states should really call the shot. As an example, I live in New York. It’s very expensive in New York. You can’t buy a hot dog for the money you’re talking about. You go to other states and it’s not expensive at all. Now what it does is puts New York at a disadvantage if the minimum wage is up, companies move out and things, bad things happen. At the same time, people have to be taken care of. But what I’m really going to do on the minimum wage — but it has to go up. …
So I would like to raise it to at least $10, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to bring jobs back to this country so that people can start working again so that the $10 and the $15 and the numbers you’re talking about are going to — literally, they’re going to be peanuts compared to what people can make in the country, because I’m going to bring jobs back from Mexico, which is booming, booming. I have a friend who builds plants and he’s a great builder of plants and I was with him the other day — great guy. He builds massive plants, for automobiles, for computers, for anything. That’s what he does. I think he’s the biggest, but certainly one of the biggest.

Aug. 1, 2016

A Trump campaign official clarified the nominee’s stance: “On the minimum wage, Mr. Trump has voiced support for raising it to $10 at the federal level, but believes states should set the minimum wage as appropriate for their state.”

(About our rating scale)

Send us facts to check by filling out this form

Sign up for The Fact Checker weekly newsletter