The U.S. federal minimum wage was first established during the Depression, and since 1933 has risen from 25 cents to $7.25 per hour. As it stands now, three years will have passed since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently just over $15,000 a year for a full time worker. Can you imagine living on that amount? The worst part is that the “poverty line” is so low as to be practically meaningless. I’d be interested to hear from any single parents out there who manage to make ends meet at even double the “poverty line”. The Fair Minimum Wage Act, supported by President Obama, would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to possibly $9.00 an hour or even $10.10 an hour. That is around $19,000/yr. This is still not enough money to survive, but it is a start. Beginning on December 31, 2013, New York increased their minimum wage to $8.00 per hour from $7.25 per hour and will subsequently change it to $9.00 per hour by the end of 2015. As a proud native New Yorker, I am saddened by this pathetic wage increase because the cost of living in New York is high and so does anyone really believe that anyone can exist on this beggarly wage?
Last year the majority of the House (Including the entire Republican delegation) voted against a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 by this year. even though this is a policy that is supported by 80% of Americans. Way to support your constituents. Clap. Clap.
Lamentably, so many of us have been taught, and politicians make us believe, that to have a job is to prosper, which is entirely untrue. The large focus on job creation in our country has diverted our attention from some of the other very important aspects of economic power. This shift has changed the market for young people who are desperately trying to find work and cannot, even with college degrees. My fear is that my 15 year old son will be launched out into a job market, after college, and find himself flipping burgers.
The main stakeholders in raising the minimum wage are ALL tax paying citizens because if workers cannot afford to live based on their wages, we end up paying for them through our welfare system and so we all stand to lose if they lose. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce federal food stamp spending by $4.6 billion a year!
There are organizations trying to help even the playing field. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) is an organization working to help get the economy moving in the right direction for the working class. NELP believes in the positive impact that raising the minimum wage will have because a robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, but so many people struggle today because of lax enforcement of workers’ rights, increased subcontracting, failed immigration policies, and an economy that creates too many low wage jobs and not nearly enough good ones. Inequality has grown to historic levels and the middle class is imperiled. NELP responds to these issues by partnering with national, state and local allies to promote policies and programs that create good jobs, help people to move upward in their field, enforce worker rights and help the unemployed get back into the workforce. It is comforting to know that organizations like NELP are here to help because the minimum wage will play a bigger role in shaping wages as the economy’s shift to low-wage service jobs accelerates.