The floor is falling out from under workers. The federal minimum wage is not enough for a full-time worker to lift a family of three out of poverty. That is not right.
The minimum wage for tipped workers – a miserly $2.13 an hour – hasn’t been raised in two decades.
Wednesday is the National Day of Action to Raise Up America, declared to ask elected officials and low-wage employers to take immediate action to raise wages for millions of America’s lowest-paid workers. There are events happening around the country to rally support for a higher minimum wage, as well as a “tweet chat” on Twitter at 2 p.m. Eastern Wednesday using the hashtag #RaiseTheWage.
We’re also asking supporters to sign our petition on MoveOn.org calling for passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation. The legislation would also raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the federal minimum.
It is long past time for Congress to rebuild the floor under workers.
Americans need good jobs with good benefits. Workers should be paid fairly for the work that they do. But these days, workers aren’t sharing in the rewards of growing profits and productivity. Corporate profits are at new highs as a share of the economy; wages at record lows. CEO salaries have soared while wages have stagnated. Part of the reason is that the floor is falling out from under workers. The current minimum wage has been losing value, and is not sufficient for a full-time worker to lift a family of three out of poverty. That is not right.
If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since 1960s, it would be more than $10.70 an hour today. If it had kept pace with the rise of worker productivity, it would have reached over $21.00 an hour. Instead corporate profits are at a record high as a portion of the economy and productivity is up, but the portion of economic wealth going to worker wages is at a record low. Workers are losing ground.
The fall in the floor is unfair and it hurts the economy. Consumer demand drives our economy. If workers aren’t paid fairly, they can’t afford to buy. Demand flags, the economy sags.
In the two years coming out of the financial collapse, the top 1 percent of Americans have captured over 110 percent of the income growth, while 99 percent lost ground on average. Thirty million American workers would benefit from increasing the minimum wage.
America’s middle class was built by workers earning a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. The minimum wage puts a floor under workers. It is time to raise the floor.
Americans overwhelmingly support this. Many smart employers agree. But the business lobby spends big bucks to oppose it. Money talks with a loud voice in Washington. Congress will act only when voters demand action.
This is adapted from an Institute for America’s Future Smart Talk on increasing the minimum wage. See other Smart Talk briefs on OurFuture.org/SmartTalk.