Thursday, July 24, 2014

Urge Your Representatives to Pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act

Many U.S. workers have come to rely on and expect an annual wage increase from their employers. Indeed, the practice of annual cost of living increases and raises came into standard practice in the heyday of labor unions when the collective bargaining power of workers ensured that the increased productivity of the company was shared with all its employees, not just those at the top.  And yet, today marks the fifth anniversary since the last time the United States government raised the minimum wage. For tipped workers, the wait has been even longer, as the tipped worker minimum wage has stagnated at $2.13 per hour since 1991.

Click here to write to your Members of Congress in support of a raise for low-wage workers.

Low-wage workers have gone five long years without a raise, even while there have been positive signs of economic growth -- GDP has surpassed pre-recession levels and the unemployment rate has reached the lowest level since before the recession. But while the economy is improving, low-wage workers still feel like we’re in a recession. As the economy has improved, better-paying jobs have been replaced by lower-wage jobs, meaning that highly qualified workers are taking jobs out of their field and below their skills and/or education levels. The U.S. labor force participation rate is at its lowest since 1978 (meaning that the unemployment rate is going down, in part, because workers are despairing, giving up their job searches, and leaving the labor market), the median income is at its lowest since 1998, and income and wealth inequality are growing. All of these problems are economic drags on the economy.

 Living wages that allow workers to support themselves and their families are crucial to closing the widening gaps in our economy, and a minimum wage above poverty level for a family is a great place to start. It is time for Congress to lift minimum and low-wage workers out of poverty by raising the minimum wage above a poverty wage. A job should keep you out of poverty, not trap you in it.

Currently, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010/H.S. 1737) will raise of the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and will lift a family of four just above the federal poverty measure. While this increase still is not high enough to ensure a living wage, it is an important step in the right direction. The bill also raises the minimum wage for tipped workers and indexes the minimum wage for inflation; ensuring low-wage workers too will come to receive the same annual cost of living increase as so many others in the economy. A recent study cited by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) shows that had the minimum wage kept pace with economic productivity, it would now be about $22 per hour. This is one reason income inequality has been growing so precipitously and it shows how much more work we have to do in demanding justice for the worker. 

Write to your member of Congress and call for a minimum wage increase: HERE

The Department of Labor estimates that a total of 28 million workers would benefit if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10. In earning higher wages, 3.8 million people would earn enough that they would no longer need to rely on SNAP (food stamps) assistance, saving the federal government over $500 million over the fiscal year. Between 14-17 million children would benefit from the raise. This is more than a question of justice for the worker, though it is that. A just minimum wage is about ensuring an economy that provides good jobs for working people, lifts families out of poverty, and pays workers a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Write to your Members of Congress today! 

Image via Department of Labor

In 2006, the PC(USA)’s 217th General Assembly called on Congress to pass “legislation to increase the minimum wage… [to] at least reflect the increase in the cost of living since the last minimum wage increase in 1997, with the goal of a wage level sufficient to lift full-time workers out of poverty.” (Minutes, 2006, pp. 894-895)