Jim Moran’s News Commentary

August 30, 2006 3:42 PM0 comments

Labor Day is a time to honor the value of hard work. Unfortunately, today more than ever America’s hard-working families are feeling squeezed, living paycheck to paycheck.

Record prices at the pump, skyrocketing health care costs and the rising cost of college in the face of falling or flat wages, are squeezing hard-working Virginians as they struggle to make ends meet.

It has been nine years since American workers received a pay raise through an increase in the federal minimum wage. Over the past decade, inflation has erased the effect of that increase – leaving millions of families behind. The purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted to its lowest level in more than half a century. Americans are working more and making less.

Nationwide, nearly 15 million hard-working Americans would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. In Virginia, 178,000 workers would see a direct increase in their hourly pay and 462,000 workers overall would likely benefit from the raise.

Raising the minimum wage is vital for families across the country. At $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker brings home $10,712 a year –nearly $6,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. An increase of $2.10 an hour would give families such as these an additional $4,400 a year to meet critical needs such as rent, health care, food and child care. The average CEO now earns 821 times more than a minimum wage worker, earning more before lunchtime than minimum wage worker earns all year.

Instead of pursuing policies to meet the needs of working people, the majority party in Congress is out of touch with the kitchen table issues affecting most Americans. Republicans have been touting that the economy is strong while playing politics with a pay raise for millions of American families. This year, in a cynical political ploy, the majority leadership effectively killed a $2.10 an hour raise in the minimum wage by anchoring it to an $800 billion estate tax giveaway for 7,500 of the richest families in America.

It is unconscionable to hold this long overdue pay raise for hard-working Americans hostage to tax cuts for the wealthiest few. I believe an honest day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay – period. That is why I am calling on Congress to vote on a stand-alone minimum wage bill raising hourly pay to $7.25. No tax cuts. No carve outs. Just raise the minimum wage for hard-working families living paycheck to paycheck.

This country was built on the American Dream, which promised that Americans’ hard work and perseverance would bring prosperity and a better life for workers and their families. Unfortunately, this Labor Day, a time when we honor the contributions of American workers, the dream moves further out of reach for millions of minimum wage workers.

It is time to stop playing politics with workers’ paychecks and pass a clean bill raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

 

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