Raise the Minimum Wage!
This July, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act, S. 3452, calling for a new increase in the federal minimum wage. This movement has legs. Also in July, Representative George Miller (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Workforce Committee, introduced his Fair Minimum Wage Act HR-6211, identical legislation which currently has over 100 co-sponsors.
Although Congress has raised the minimum wage in recent years, the minimum wage for tipped workers has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991. If it kept pace with its 1991 value, today it would stand at $4.35. It is true that employers must make up the difference between tips and the minimum wage, but not all employers do so. Also, workers rely on the base wages paid by an employer as a measure of steady income in an industry where tips can fluctuate widely depending on the day, week, season, and economic conditions such as the current recession, when people may tighten their belts and tip less generously than usual. As a result, those who work for tips, including those in the restaurant and other industries, have been devastated by the erosion of the value of their minimum wage.
This proposal would go a long way towards restoring the minimum wage to its historic value; it would be more than $10.40 per hour today if it had kept pace with the rising cost of living over the past forty years.
- Raise the federal minimum wage 85 cents a year for three years, bringing it to $9.80 by fall 2014.
- The Harkin-Miller proposal would raise pay for more than 28 million Americans.
- Starting in 2015, it would then adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living, as 10 states currently do
- And it would raise the minimum wage for tipped employees – which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 for more than 20 years – to 70% of the regular minimum wage.
Learn more about the positive impacts of raising the minimum wage on our ally National Employment Law Project’s websiteRaise the Minimum Wage.