Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks at a press conference today with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Congressman George Miller (CA), Congressman Dan Kildee (MI) and minimum wage earners Semethia Butler and Anna Hovland on the need for Congress to raise the minimum wage. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“Thank you very much Mr. Secretary, Senator Kennedy. Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced Senator Kennedy is here [in spirit], and I am convinced that he was absolutely right when he turned to Nancy [Pelosi] and said, and to George Miller who have been such champions of the minimum wage, ‘Yes we just passed the minimum wage, now let’s start working on raising the minimum wage.’ Why did he say that?
“We would have to raise the minimum wage $3.22 so that it would presently have the value it had in 1968 -- two years after Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to invest in our people, to empower them to participate in this the land of opportunity, to empower them and enable them to support themselves, and their family, and as [Henry] Ford so correctly observed, buy the products that America produces, that it makes in America.
“If we want people to make it in America, we need to make sure they have the resources to make it in America, for themselves and their families. Fifty-four percent of the average wage was replaced in 1968 when you went to work [at the minimum wage]. [A minimum wage worker] made 54 percent [of the average hourly wage in 1968]. Today, 39 percent. We want people to work, but they lose their jobs, and there are some people in this institution that talk about disincentivising work. Let me suggest to them: nothing will disincentive going to work like not paying a wage that people can live on.
“So I would call on my friends, my Republicans colleagues to not only pass the unemployment insurance today, so we take care of people today, but that we pass the minimum wage and raise it, to $10.10. And then Senator Kennedy will tell us: ok, you got it to $10.10, it’s time to start working on getting it back to 1968 [levels of] 54 percent level, perhaps 60 percent level, perhaps even higher.
“I introduced a raise in the minimum wage in 2006 in the Appropriations Committee. Nancy and I were members of the Labor-Health Subcommittee but members of the full Appropriations Committee. It passed [the House in January 2007]. We got some Republican votes, Tom. All because we were in charge of the House. President Bush was president. [Republicans] never brought the bill to the Floor. We never got the chance to vote on it. Let us hope that’s not the case now.
“And let us hope that’s [not] the case because Semethia, and so many others – there are 1.4 million Americans today who aren’t paid enough, but millions and millions more who are being underpaid vastly for the extraordinary value of the work they’re doing for all of us. Semethia is going to tell us the challenges that that causes her and her family.”