Statement by Ralph Nader Regarding the Minimum Wage

The Harkin/Miller bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 (in three years) still does not catch up with the federal minimum wage in 1968, adjusted for inflation, which should be at least $10.50 per hour in 2013.

Since 1968, worker productivity has doubled and all workers have received for this effort is a shrinking minimum wage. In other words, one Walmart worker today does the work that two Walmart workers did in 1968 and receives less pay, inflation adjusted, than either of those workers 45 years ago.

The working poor in America have taken the brunt of the Wall Street crash of 2008-2009. They are the most unemployed or underemployed, the lowest paid, the most ill-housed and underinsured, the most exploited in the marketplace and the most unrepresented by unions. There are 30 million working poor in our country who make less than 1968’s wages, inflation-adjusted, while the bosses of Walmart, McDonalds, and other big box stores and companies average over $10 million a year plus perks and benefits. These companies employ two-thirds of the low-wage workers in the United States.

An inflation-adjusted minimum wage is supported by at least 70 percent of the American people, including Rick Santorum and, until last year, Mitt Romney. Raising wages to the 1968 level is not only the morally right thing to do, but it would also be a significant economic stimulus. The working poor will quickly spend this overdue, earned money on their necessities, which will in turn increase sales and jobs.

Thirty million working poor, with millions of children whom they are desperately trying to support, cannot wait any longer for the food, housing, transportation, fuel and health care they need. They have been shortchanged by inflation and an indifferent federal government for too long. They need parity with 1968 now – hardly a radical demand.

The Harkin/Miller bill properly disregards the absurdly low proposal of President Obama in his State of the Union speech last month which was $9 per hour by 2015. In contrast, during his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama pledged $9.50 an hour by 2011. It is encouraging that Senator Harkin and Representative Miller are embarking on an independent path. We look forward to their public hearings – official in the Senate and unofficial in the Republican-dominated House – to hear the voices of the working poor and others who can bring to light the wretched conditions that an oligarchic corporate economy has imposed on workers in the most avaricious, unpatriotic repressions.

If Costco can start its workers at $11.50 per hour with benefits, if Australia can pay its workers over $15 per hour in minimum wages, and if Walmart can make profits in Ontario and pay that Canadian province’s $10.25 per hour minimum wage, why can’t Congress, (known to adjust its salaries to inflation until recently) bring 30 million working poor Americans, who grow our food, serve us, clean up after us, and take care of our children and elderly, to the level of pay in 1968?

It’s time for a raise to $10.50 now! See: www.timeforaraise.org.

For More Information, Contact Ralph Nader or Joan Claybrook 202-387-8030.

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