Washington Post: Time to fight for a minimum wage increase

Column By Katrina vanden Heuvel
Washington Post, May 29, 2012

The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 cents an hour, about $15,080 for a full time, year round worker. At that level, it means poverty wages for a family of three, and weakened demand for the economy. As Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and New York’s bishops concluded, this leaves workers “on the brink of homelessness, with not enough in their paychecks to pay for the most basic of necessities, like food, medicine or clothing for their children.” ...

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that the recently-introduced proposal by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to lift the minimum wage to $9.80 over three years would give 28 million workers a raise. In a time of faltering growth, this money would be immediately spent, a direct boost to demand and the economy.

Already the states have started to act. Eighteen states have hiked their minimum wage over the federal level. In New York, legislation to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 passed the Assembly but is bottled up by Republican opponents in the Senate. Business leaders from the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, the American Sustainable Business Council as well as the Working Families Party, Mayor Bloomberg and Cardinal Dolan and the state’s bishops have all urged action on the bill.

In Congress, proponents are gearing up a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $9.80 an hour by 2014. Given Republican opposition, the legislation will no doubt have to survive a filibuster in the Senate and will only get a vote in the House if a majority of legislators sign a discharge petition to get it on the floor. ...

We’ve seen who supports tax cuts on the wealthy and billion dollar subsidies to big oil. Let’s see who supports raising a minimum wage so a full-time worker can lift his or her family out of poverty. ... 

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