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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The national minimum wage of $5.15 is now at its lowest level in 50 years when adjusted for inflation, according to a new analysis from the Center for Economic and Policy Research released by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) today. The lawmakers said the unfortunate milestone should shame the U.S. Congress into finally acting on behalf of America’s lowest-paid workers.
Later today, Hoyer will offer an amendment to raise the national minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. Congress has not raised the minimum wage since 1997.
“The minimum wage is lower than it has been at any time since 1956. All Americans should get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Congress’ refusal to raise the minimum wage shows an utter disrespect for millions of Americans who work hard every day and still struggle to meet even the most basic needs,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
“Millions of hardworking Americans who earn the minimum wage are struggling to put food on the table for their families. Skyrocketing costs have put health care and decent housing out of their reach, while rising gas prices are squeezing them even further. That is why Democrats have made raising the minimum wage a top priority,” said Hoyer.
Miller has introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 in three increments over roughly two years. Hoyer and 134 other members of the House have cosponsored the legislation, but Republican leaders refuse to allow the House of Representatives to vote on it. Hoyer will offer Miller’s bill as an amendment today when the full House Appropriations Committee takes up the fiscal year 2007 spending bill for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.
Seeking to bypass Republican leaders’ intransigence on the issue, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) has introduced a petition that would force a full House debate and vote on the minimum wage if a majority of House members sign it. So far, 189 lawmakers – all Democrats – have signed the petition, meaning that just 29 more signatures are needed to force a vote.
About 7.7 million American workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, according to a report released late last year by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. About 70 percent of those workers are adults over the age of 20. Nearly 42 percent of them work full-time. Over 62 percent are white; 15.8 percent are black; and 17.2 percent are Hispanic.
At $5.15 per hour, a worker who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year earns just $10,712.