Fight for Minimum Wage Increase Not Over

May 1, 2014

Social workers and other members of the social justice community are disappointed the Senate on Wednesday failed to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act (S.460).

Fortunately, the Obama Administration will continue to press for the passage of the bill. In turn, they are asking Americans in favor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act to press members of Congress to pass the legislation when it is brought back up for a vote.

We are hoping you will join the administration in this fight.

Yesterday, the bill failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster. The bill was defeated by a party-line vote with all Democrats (54) voting in favor and all but one Republican (42) voting against raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 (Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the sole Republican who supported the measure).

Soon after the filibuster vote was announced, CBSNews.com quoted President Obama as saying, “This is a very simple issue. Either you’re in favor of raising wages for hard-working Americans or you’re not. Either you want to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, so that prosperity is broad-based, or you think that top-down economics is the way to go.”

The minimum wage has not risen since 2009, although Obama recently increased the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

It is unfortunate that some members of the Senate balk at raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.  They certainly should be aware that a $10.10 hourly wage rate translates to $21,000 per year (assuming the employee works 40 hours per week).

Based on the 2014 official level of poverty for a family of four ($23,550), a family of four headed by a minimum wage earner would still be living in poverty. This same family would qualify for food stamps.

Several states  have taken it upon themselves to increase the minimum wage for their citizens. And a number of jurisdictions have accepted that the federal minimum wage is inadequate and have embraced the notion of a living wage.

A living wage is defined as a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living. An individual working 40 hours per week would be able to afford food, child care, medical, housing, transportation and other expenses for his family.  Since 1990, over 120 jurisdictions across the country have enacted living wage laws.

While the possibility of Congress passing a living wage act is beyond the imagination, it is not too much to expect lawmakers to pass a very modest minimum wage increase.

To paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez’s comments regarding the filibuster of the Fair Minimum Wage Act during a national conference call Wednesday with economic justice advocates the fight to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour is not over.

We are glad it is not.

To learn more about what the National Association of Social Workers is doing on social justice issues such as the minimum wage contact Mel Wilson, MBA, MSW, LCSW, manager of NASW’s Department of Social Justice and Human Rights, at mwilson@naswdc.org.

 

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