Monday, June 26, 2006

The minimum wage scandal is a working woman's Issue... as well as her children's

Update: Economic Record: Federal minimum wage is set to break two records:

"adjusted for inflation [minimum wage] is at its lowest level since 1955,"

"[when] 2006 comes to an end - it will mark 10 years - the longest time the minimum has gone without an increase."


Economic Report: Dems Say Minimum Wage Workers Get a Raise or Congress Doesn't

By Doug Cunningham

Senate Democrats are threatening to block the latest $3,300 pay raise for Congress unless Republicans give minimum wage workers a raise. The federal minimum wage has stayed at $5.15 an hour since 1997. Congress has had raises of more than $31,000 in that time. The minimum wage of $10,400 a year is $6,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. Campaigns are underway in several states to get minimum wage increases on the November ballot.

Following is an excerpt from the Econonomic Policy Institute ~ dated almost seven years ago. What are the disparities now? [Read this paper from the Children's Defense Fund for an idea. ]

September 16, 1999 Issue Brief #133

The Minimum Wage Increase
A Working Woman's Issue

by Jared Bernstein, Heidi Hartmann, and John Schmitt

As Congress considers raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $5.15 per hour to $6.15, it is important to understand who will benefit from this increase. An analysis of low-wage workers shows that the main beneficiaries of this one-dollar increase would be working women, almost one million of whom are single mothers. In fact, of the 11.8 million workers who would receive a pay increase as the result of this higher minimum wage, 58% would be women, simply because, as a group, they earn lower wages than men. As a result, a minimum wage increase would help to reduce the overall pay gap between women and men.

Since the minimum wage is not indexed to inflation, when Congress fails to raise the minimum wage, these workers' purchasing power declines, as was the case over the 1980s. Even with the two increases thus far in the 1990s, the minimum wage remains 19% below its inflation-adjusted 1979 level. This decline in the minimum wage helps to explain the growth of wage inequality and the diminished earnings of low-wage female workers over the last two decades.

In 1979, a woman working at the minimum wage earned 70% of the hourly wage of the median female worker (the woman right in the middle of the female wage scale). By 1998, that ratio had fallen to 52%. Similarly, in 1979 a single mother working full time at the minimum wage earned enough to lift a family of three (herself and two children) above the poverty line. By 1998, however, the same family would be 18% below the poverty line. [1]
And, still, our GOP-controlled congress is unable to see how they might be perceived as penurious by others who would judge them for their own questionable salary increases, which are, in fact, tied to the cost of living (their living, not ours), juxtaposed against their willingness to ride on the coattails of welfare reform that forced many young, and under-educated mothers of young children into the workforce, and into jobs where the low pay, and lack of health care benefits, continue to push them even further below the poverty line. Ah me...

Yet, there is hope in the final paragraph of this story from last week's Christian Science Monitor:

After Wednesday's vote, Kennedy found a bright spot, even in the defeat of his measure: eight Republican votes in support of his position. "We have doubled the number of Republicans who supported the minimum wage this time. We may have to wait until November, when Democrats take control.... One of the first acts of legislation will be a freestanding minimum-wage bill."

Finally, this related story, also from the Christian Science Monitor, erases any doubt about the benefits to working mothers and their children that would result from an increase in the minimum wage.

My only question is why $7-something an hour? Wouldn't $10 an hour be more realistic?


Blogger Thursday Next said...

Conservatives continue to puzzle me. They're like an alien race or something.

9:26 PM  

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