As the new 110th Congress begins its work, the Teamsters Union is making sure that workers are the focus. In November, working families demonstrated our strength. Our votes and voices changed the nation’s priorities. Americans decidedly rejected six years of failed policies from the Bush administration.

This is an important year for working Americans. The challenges we face include the lack of affordable health care, growing retirement insecurity, dwindling workplace rights, job-killing trade agreements, unsafe highways and concerns about our national security.

The Teamsters briefed reporters Monday on our legislative priorities for 2007. What is clear is that the new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have an extraordinary opportunity to improve the lives of working families. Access to good paying jobs, affordable health care and a secure retirement should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans.

Raise the Minimum Wage

Today’s vote in the House to raise minimum wage is a great start, and it’s long overdue. The wage, now at $5.15 an hour, hasn’t been raised in a decade. For millions of working Americans, an increase in the minimum wage will make the difference between living in poverty and not.

A person working full-time and paid the current federal minimum wage earns about $10,700 annually. This is well below the poverty level for a family. When factoring in the erosion effect of inflation since the last minimum wage increase, the situation becomes even more outrageous.

A higher minimum wage creates a floor that ensures workers receive reasonable pay for their work. Also, it provides a foothold into the middle class for many other families. Before the last election, 22 states had already raised the minimum wage and since then voters in six more states ratified similar initiatives.

The Teamsters will support “clean