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WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke at a rally this afternoon with other members of the Congressional leadership celebrating the first increase in the federal minimum wage, which took place today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Let this day - Tuesday, July 24, 2007 - stand out across our great nation as the day this New Democratic Congress began to return fairness and justice to the American workplace.
"Ten years is too long - far too long - to let those who toil in some of the toughest workplaces in America go without pay raise.
"But after just seven months as the new majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats have begun to deliver for workers!
"Nearly half a million who make the minimum wage today will benefit immediately. More than five million will directly benefit over the next two years when this minimum wage hike is fully implemented. And, more than seven million others will indirectly benefit from this increase.
"The bottom line is, if you work hard and you play by the rules in the richest nation on the face of the earth, you should not live in poverty. You should be able to take care of your family and basic necessities. You should be able to get ahead. And you should be able to get a toe-hold on the American Dream.
"Republicans talk a lot about an 'ownership society.' But then they go out and try to enact policies that would establish a 'survival' society. We see things differently.
"A fair and just economy doesn't just help those who are struggling. It helps all Americans.
"As Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said in March: 'Income inequality is where the capitalist system is most vulnerable. You can't have the capitalist system if an increasing number of people think it is unjust.'
"Today's minimum wage increase is simply a matter of doing what's right, what's just and what's fair. And, we realize that our work has only just begun."