Congress: Support a Minimum Wage Increase – but Move Toward a Living Wage

TAKE ACTION — Please urge your senators and representatives to take leadership in getting minimum-wage bills out of committee and to a successful floor vote!


BACKGROUND:

Lack of Legislative Action — In its historic foot-dragging on increasing the federal minimum wage, Congress continues failing to support workers who are at the bottom of the pay scale. With a higher minimum wage, workers would have greater purchasing power and this, in turn, would help fuel economic recovery and create more jobs. While advocates have pushed for a realistic minimum wage for decades, Republican leadership appears entrenched against any raise and Democrats are hesitant to engage in yet another major battle. Because of this injustice, millions are forced to exist in poverty or near poverty without any hope for improved family income and better employment opportunities.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and 30 co-sponsors /H.R. 1010, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and 142 co-sponsors) would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.20 an hour for the first year, increasing to $10.10 per hour after two years, with cost-of-living adjustments thereafter.

For tipped workers, the Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise the federal sub-minimum wage from $2.13 to $3.00 an hour (with the expectation that tips from customers will bring the hourly rate close to the prevailing minimum wage – though that does not always happen). The Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services Act - WAGES (H.R.650) would raise the ridiculously low tipped minimum wage to $3.75 per hour the first year, $5.00 per hour the second year, and 70 percent of the regular minimum wage thereafter.

Significant Impact on Restaurant Workers — This fight is especially important for restaurant workers whose hourly minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 for decades. In the 1990’s, the National Restaurant Association (NRA), under former presidential candidate and then NRA CEO Herman Cain, lobbied to keep the federal tipped minimum wage at this inhumane level. This rock bottom wage has caused restaurant workers to experience poverty at three times the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, using food stamps at twice the rate. NRA’s successful efforts to keep restaurant workers from being able to earn paid sick leave, added to the high costs and inaccessibility of child care, leave too many women barely able or unable to keep their families economically secure. The WAGES bill, introduced by Rep. Donna Edwards (D. Md.), would alleviate this problem by tying the tipped minimum wage to the minimum set for non-tipped workers, including cost-of-living adjustments. Currently, the bill has no parallel in the Senate and, unfortunately, very few cosponsors in the House. We need to show all the support we can for Rep. Edwards' bill!

We need you to urge your senators and representative to step up and push these pieces of legislation to the floor. These are both necessary and long overdue steps toward our ultimate goal of ensuring a living wage for all, so that workers can achieve a basic level of economic security.

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