President Obama has showed vision and leadership by calling for a raise in the federal minimum wage as one way to “build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.” At the federal level, Senator Harkin and Congressman Miller have introduced bills that would raise the federal minimum wage for the first time since 2009. Legislative and ballot initiative campaigns at the state and local level have made great progress and scored key victories. Below are key messages about the movement to end poverty wages for workers:
- We have lots of catching up to do. The federal minimum wage has fallen far behind the pace of inflation. In fact, workers making minimum wage today make less than they did in 1968 when adjusted for inflation. If adjusted to inflation, the federal minimum wage should actually be $10.55. Meanwhile, worker productivity has doubled during this time but they have yet to share in the benefits of their labor.
- The current federal minimum wage can’t support families. The federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, amounts to only $15,080 a year. That is $7,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. People who work for a living should be able to support their families and live off their wages.
- Low-wage jobs are costing taxpayers money. Since wages in the fast food industry are so low, 52 percent of front line fast food workers depend on public assistance to pay for basic needs like food, rent and healthcare. As a result, the low wages paid by fast-food companies cost Americans nearly $7 billion annually.
- Workers get $7.25. Executives get 725 percent. CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years and 80 percent of all real income growth has gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans. It’s time that workers got a raise.
- States are leading the way to raise the wage. New Jersey became the fourth state to raise its minimum wage this year, following New York, Connecticut and California, which approved a minimum wage increase to $10 per hour. Effective January 1, 2014, New York and New Jersey will join 19 other states and the District of Columbia in raising their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour. Legislative campaigns to raise the wage are underway in Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota and Hawaii.
- Passing minimum wage bills in Congress would be an important crucial step toward raising wages for all Americans who work 40 hours a week and are still struggling to get by. Nobody with a full-time job should be forced to live in poverty.
- Americans overwhelmingly support an increase in the minimum wage. Nearly three-quarters – 73 percent – support increasing the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation. A 56 percent majority believe that increasing the minimum wage would help the economy.