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Ralph Nader > Special Features > Remarks by Ralph Nader on Raising Minimum Wage

At the Occasion of the Introduction of the “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012” Legislation to Raise Minimum Wage to $10 Per Hour

It is time that we catch up with the 1960’s and raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour.

Think about that sobering fact for a second. Even by raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour, it would still remain below the minimum wage (in today’s dollars) in 1968. Candidate Obama in 2008 promised to push for a $9.50 federal minimum wage by 2011.

At a time when the issue of income inequality has been elevated in political discourse, it is surprising that a plight of millions of workers throughout the country hasn’t been addressed: the need to raise the minimum wage. For decades, the compensation packages and bonuses of the top one percent have been skyrocketing. The stagnant or declining wages of the middle and lower class have suffered at the hands of the insatiable greed of the oligarchy.

We live in a land of the absurd: the richest 1 percent controls as much financial wealth as the bottom combined 95 percent. Wall Street executives’ bonuses have reached gut-wrenching heights when Bloomberg News can, in a recent article, portray annual pay of $10 million to $23 million as normal. Nearly 23 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. A single Wall Street executives’ compensation of $15 million would pay the annual wages of over 700 workers working at a minimum wage of $10 per hour.

Instead, the minimum wage has lost value for nearly 45 years. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is lower than at any point between 1956 and 1985. This, however, is more than a moral issue about income inequality for 30 million hard pressed working people making between $7.25 and $10.00 per hour. (Canada has a minimum wage in British Columbia and Ontario of $10.25 per hour)

It is about the recovery of our economy. In 2011, 3.8 million workers were paid at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Repeat, thirty million workers were paid between $7.25 and $10 per hour. A 2011 study by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank found that for every dollar increase to the wage of a minimum wage worker, the result is $2,800 in new consumer spending from that worker’s household over the year. A 2009 study from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that simply by raising the minimum wage to $9.50, $60 billion in additional spending over a two year period would be added to the economy. That spells more jobs. President Obama’s chief economic advisor, Alan Krueger, is the leading scholar debunking job loss from raising the minimum wage (to 1968 levels).

It is about gender and racial inequality. Nearly two thirds of all workers being paid at or below the federal minimum wage are women. Black and Hispanic workers are also disproportionately impacted: Black workers make up 11.5 percent of the civilian labor force, but 15 percent of minimum wage workers. Hispanic workers make up 15 percent of the civilian labor force, but nearly 19 percent of the minimum wage workers. Millions of other workers are also laboring in this category between $7.25 and $10.00.

It is about the American Dream slipping away. A single mother of two working a $7.25 per hour minimum wage job does not even meet the federal government’s own measure for the poverty line, which is $18,123. How can she even hope to escape poverty if the federal minimum wage doesn’t even start her at the official unrealistically low federal poverty level?

Historically, polls have registered around 70 percent favoring a minimum wage keeping up with inflation. That includes many Republican workers at Wal-Mart and other workplaces.

It is way past time for Congress to wake up and enact a $10 minimum wage to catch up with 1968!

For More Information Contact:

Ralph Nader or Jeff Musto
[email protected]