Imagine working full-time, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and not having enough money to pay rent, put gas in the car and eat. The idea is absurd, but for millions of Americans, it’s real.
Today marks the longest period workers in this country have gone without a minimum wage increase since the federal minimum wage was enacted in 1938. Working people have been stretched to the limit and this year, on Election Day, they snapped back. By the millions, voters turned out to change the direction of our country and, in part, to end the Congressional stalemate on the minimum wage. Raising it is both an economic and a moral issue.
In every state where the minimum wage was on the ballot as an initiative, it passed -- in Ohio, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Nevada. By huge margins, voters rejected $5.15 an hour.
With the addition of the six states, 28 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wage laws above the federal $5.15. It’s time to bring everyone up. No one can live, let alone raise a family, on $11,000 a year, which is more than a full time minimum wage worker earns annually. America needs a raise.
Raising the minimum wage to $7.25 over 26 months will benefit an estimated 6.6 million workers directly and another 8.3 million indirectly, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
For 10 years, Congress has refused to vote a minimum wage increase. But in that time, prices have skyrocketed. The costs of gas, food, housing, education and health care have increased, but wages have not. In fact, wages have gone down. The real value of the minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest point since 1955. In terms of wages, we’ve gone back half a century.
Working people in America are squeezed.
Less than one-third of voters polled on election-day report they can pull ahead financially. The majority of Americans feel they are behind or simply breaking even. Scarier still, just one third of people think life will be better for the next generation.
Raising the minimum wage is just a first step in getting America back on track. We need real economic change. From affordable health care and retirement security to good jobs and the freedom to form unions, we need bold, new answers to the questions working families confront every day.
The people have spoken. It’s time to get to work and it’s time to raise the minimum wage.