At just $7.25 an hour, or roughly $15,080 per year, the current federal minimum wage is leaving millions of hardworking Americans in poverty. There is not a single state in America where a worker earning the current federal minimum wage can afford an average two-bedroom apartment by working a standard 40-hour work week.
The fight to raise the minimum wage is about more than boosting pay for millions of the country's lowest-paid workers -- it is also a matter of restoring human dignity.
We have seen some genuine momentum for the fight to raise the federal minimum wage in recent weeks. President Obama re-ignited this fight by declaring his commitment to raise the minimum wage during his State of the Union address. Then, two key members of the Congressional Democratic Leadership - Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California - introduced a strong proposal that increases the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 and indexes it to inflation thereafter.
While we have been working with our allies, including Progressive United, National Employment Law Project and others, to push for a vote on this legislation in the Senate, but now it's time to raise the heat on the Republican leadership in the House. Your member of Congress -- Rep. Titus -- has not yet come out in support of the Fair Minimum Wage Act. Rep. Titus needs to know that as a constituent you expect her to support a bill that provides America's lowest-paid workers with an urgently needed raise that will also boost the consumer spending that fuels our economy.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act is significant for a number of reasons. First, it would generate more than $32 billion in new economic activity, translating to 140,000 new full-time jobs as higher sales lead businesses to hire more employees, according to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute.
Second, the legislation will index the minimum wage so that it automatically increases every year, giving workers a raise they can count on without having to wait for Congress to act. At a time when corporate profit margins in the U.S. economy are at an all-time high, employees' wages as a percent of the economy have hit an all-time low.4 Raising the federal minimum wage rate so that it at least keeps up with inflation is the least this Congress can do to address this out-of-control economic disparity, and provide much-needed relief to millions of Americans.
Third, the Fair Minimum Wage Act remedies an injustice that has persisted for decades -- the freezing of the minimum wage for tipped workers at a meager $2.13 per hour. It would raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the federal minimum wage and thereafter, index it as well. This is of particular importance for women workers, who make up a disproportionate part of not just the low-wage work force, but the tipped workforce as well.5 Thus, raising the minimum wage, especially the tipped minimum wage, is an essential component of the ongoing fight to close the wage gap.
Lastly, raising the minimum wage is a necessary and common-sense step to take during a fragile economic recovery. According to a recent study, disproportionate numbers of new jobs created in the current economic climate are jobs in low-wage occupations like cashier and food preparation, where the minimum wage sets pay scales.6 With the economy still struggling, Congress needs to use every tool available to ensure the quality of new jobs created, so that we have a meaningful recovery - and nothing will have greater impact than increasing the minimum wage for all workers.
It is crucial for us to generate support for the Fair Minimum Wage Act in the House because it will provide broader momentum for increasing the minimum wage in both chambers of Congress.
* My argument for raising the minimum-wage to $17 an hour (it will help reduce "wage subsidies" (aka entitlements such as food stamps).
* Click the link below to sign the petition and urge Rep. Titus to co-sponsor Representative Miller's legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.