I haven't seen any discussion on this and so I am not clear on whether it can only add restrictions on top of existing state laws instead of removing restrictions.

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    The other question was an attempt to answer a certain class of questions of which this question is one of that class. The second sentence was advisory, in that, one should use care in using that question as an attempt to close this question. It was not an attempt to preempt this question.
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 16, 2023 at 13:32
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    @xyldke The answer to this question can be found in the accepted answer of the other question ... No. This question asks: given a federal minimum of X and a state minimum of Y, where Y is greater than X, can the government set a limit Z such that Z is greater than X and less than Y; thus reducing the state's minimum wage. For example, $10 ≤ $14 < $15. An employer within the state paying $14/hr could use the federal wage law and the supremacy clause to defend against paying $15/hr, the state minimum.
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 16, 2023 at 15:01
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    @xyldke Ok I was just saying that the answer that you quoted and gave appears to be incorrect, since it disagrees with another case study (that I trust was less reflexively answered).
    – user84614
    Oct 16, 2023 at 15:51
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    This question is better suited for law.stackexchange.com
    – user103496
    Oct 17, 2023 at 1:19
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    @user84614: You are mistaken. Law.SE covers all aspects of law and all countries. The answers there are also of much higher quality than here. Give it a try if you are serious about asking your question.
    – user103496
    Oct 17, 2023 at 1:39

1 Answer 1


Q: Could the US fed gov reduce a state's minimum wage?

Possibly. 1 Minimum wages are regulated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

Something as innocuous as purchasing fast food in one state and driving to another state before eating is interstate commerce, but even that is not required.

If Congress decides that a cap on the minimum wage is necessary to achieve a "legitimate end", then the Court could 2 side with Congress. This despite the apparent meaning of "substantial" with respect to "effect on interstate commerce" (see below).

Such legitimate ends could include maintaining more entry-level jobs or preventing a rise in unemployment within the affected states; either or both of which would affect the national economy. (See, What is the case against raising the minimum wage? for its general effects.)

However, such a law would not pass Congress because no Democrat would support it and most Republicans would be concerned about diminishing their chances for re-election. 3

Limits on Federal Regulation of Intrastate Activity

... the three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate or protect under its commerce power: (1) the use of the channels of interstate commerce; (2) the use of instrumentalities of interstate commerce; or (3) activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.

Neither 1 nor 2 apply. The question then is whether wages paid at any state's high minimum wage substantially affect interstate commerce.

Intrastate Activities Having a Substantial Relation to Interstate Commerce

In United States v. Lopez, the Court identified activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce as being subject to Congress’s Commerce Clause power. Consequently, Congress’s power extends beyond transactions or actions that involve crossing state or national boundaries to activities that, though local in nature, sufficiently affect commerce. The Court has stated that, even activity that is purely intrastate in character may be regulated by Congress, where the activity, combined with like conduct by others similarly situated, affects commerce among the States or with foreign nations. This power derives from the Commerce Clause supplemented by the Necessary and Proper Clause.

... the Court stated, the commerce power ‘extends to those activities intrastate which so affect interstate commerce, or the exertion of the power of Congress over it, as to make regulation of them appropriate means to the attainment of a legitimate end, the effective execution of the granted power to regulate interstate commerce.’ Judicial review is narrow. A court must defer to Congress’s determination of an effect if it is rational, and Congress must have acted reasonably in choosing the means.

1 I am only willing to stick out my neck just so far. There is no suitable precedent I could find.
2 Still preserving my neck.
3 My neck is safe.

  • Thanks. How would Congress phrase that? Minimum wage laws are illegal? Or no state government may prevent an individual from being employed at a certain rate? I'm only familiar with laws regulating private individuals and businesses so I'm not sure how they would regulate state governments, wording-wise.
    – user84614
    Oct 17, 2023 at 1:30
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    @user84614 - They would probably, suitably modify 29 U.S. Code § 206 - Minimum wage to create an exception under paragraph (a) to identify state minimum wages and add text expressing the limits. I have no idea how it would be expressed.
    – Rick Smith
    Oct 17, 2023 at 1:55
  • Something just feels very unintuitive about a law regulating what laws can exist, even if they're state laws. Outside of the Constitution (which I know has been applied to state laws). So I just want to confirm. Hopefully I'll find an answer someplace
    – user84614
    Oct 17, 2023 at 2:03
  • @user84614 It is not "a law regulating what laws can exist", but stating which are the limits to state laws. The Interstate Commerce Clause was used, among other things, to forbid racial discrimination in accomodation. If there is a federal law, and SCOTUS holds that its reach is within the powers of the federal powers, then all state (and lower laws) contradicting it are invalid.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 17, 2023 at 12:20
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    Or put the other way: if a state issued a law setting a minimum wage that is under the federal limit, that law would be invalid. So the very example you point in your question is a law that limits the states ability to issue laws. A law setting a maximum would not be that different, provided that SCOTUS agreed that it was constitutional.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 17, 2023 at 12:24

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