Thanks to the activism of more than 112,000 CREDO Action members who have petitioned their Senators to support Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, we are gaining momentum.
The need to keep pressing Congress on behalf of working class Americans who desperately need a raise remains urgent. At just $7.25 an hour, or roughly $15,000 per year, the current federal minimum wage is leaving millions of hard working Americans in poverty.
A key member of the House Democratic Leadership — Representative George Miller from California — is planning to introduce legislation that increases the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 by 2014 then indexes it to inflation thereafter. He has circulated a letter asking his colleagues in the House to co-sponsor the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012. Rep. Judy Biggert has not yet done so.
It is crucial for us to generate support for Representative Miller's effort because it will provide broader momentum for increasing the minimum wage in both chambers of Congress. That is why we are joining with Service Employees International Union and National Employment Law Project in calling on House members to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
Representative Miller's legislation is significant for a number of reasons. It 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.1 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.
Representative Miller's legislative approach to 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 that pay by the hour, and many of the fastest growing types of jobs pay well below $10 per hour.2 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.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act also remedies an injustice that has persisted for decades — the freezing of the minimum wage for tipped workers. Over the course of five years, 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.3 Thus, raising the minimum wage, especially the tipped minimum wage, is an essential component of the ongoing fight to close the wage gap.
The more members of Congress sign on to his legislation, the more attention the issue will generate at the federal level, giving a boost to Miller's effort to get an up-or-down vote on his bill in Congress.