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By Chelyen Davis
Free Lance Star (VA), Aug 4, 2012

When Sen. Jim Webb entered the Senate in 2007, one of the first bills he backed raised the federal minimum wage. ...

This week he signed on to co-sponsor another bill to raise the federal minimum wage, this time to $9.80 an hour over two years.

The minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, where it’s been since 2009. That rate was set in the 2007 bill, which at the time was the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade. ...

This year’s bill, filed just days ago by Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, would also index the minimum wage to inflation, so that it would increase as the cost of living goes up.

“Lower income workers continue to get squeezed by stagnant wages and rising cost of living,” Webb said in a statement announcing his support for Harkin’s bill.

“In the age of globalization and outsourcing, the average American worker is seeing a different life and a troubling future. While corporate profits are at an all-time high, wages and salaries are at an all-time low as a percentage of GDP. Raising the minimum wage is an important step toward addressing this disparity.” ...

Business groups often oppose increases in the minimum wage, since raising the amount they must pay workers increases their costs. In 2007, for example, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill that raised the minimum wage, saying it would disproportionately hurt small businesses by increasing their labor costs. ...

Others—including different business groups, like the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce—argue that raising the minimum wage helps the economy by putting more money into consumers’ pockets. 

A recent report from the National Employment Law Project, which works to raise minimum wages at the federal and local levels, says that 66 percent of minimum wage workers work for companies with more than 100 employees.

The same group backs tying the minimum wage to inflation, saying that the wage from 1968 would now be worth about $10 an hour in today’s dollars.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

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