23 July 2009

Minimum-Wage Hike: Cause for Celebration?

This Friday, the federal minimum-wage increase--from $6.55 to $7.25--goes into effect. Is this cause for celebration? Especially for women, who make up the majority of minimum- and below-minimum-wage workers? Holly Sklar, senior policy adviser for the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, co-author of the report "Raise the Minimum Wage to $10 in 2010" and with Susan Wefald, Ms. Foundation executive vice president and COO, the book, Raise The Floor: Wages and Policies That Work For All Of Us, had this to say:
The minimum wage is stuck in the 1950s. With the raise to $7.25, the minimum wage is still lower than the 1956 minimum wage of $7.93 in today's dollars. It would take $9.92 today to match the buying power of the minimum wage at its peak in 1968, the year Martin Luther King died fighting for living wages for sanitation workers--and all workers.

The long-term fall in worker buying power is one reason we are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. In advocating passage of the federal minimum wage during the Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt called it "an essential part of economic recovery."

And so it is today. The minimum wage sets the wage floor. We can't build a strong economy with poverty wages and rising greed. In 1968, the richest 1 percent of Americans had 11 percent of national income. By 2006, they had 23 percent--the highest share since 1928, right before the Great Depression.

It's obscene that underpaid workers and responsible businesses are bailing out banks and corporations run by reckless overpaid bosses who milked their companies and our country like cash cows--and trashed the global economy. If the minimum wage had stayed above the nearly $10 value it had in 1968, it would have put upward pressure--rather than downward pressure--on the average worker wage. The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign is calling for a minimum wage of $10 in 2010. It's time to break the cycle of too little, too late raises. A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it.

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