WASHINGTON, DC- The Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee (DSOC) held a discussion on Wednesday morning with leading advocates on raising the federal minimum wage. U.S. Senator Mark Begich (AK), Chairman of the DSOC, hosted the event with Senator Harkin (IA), who highlighted his bill Minimum Wage Fairness Act. Sen. Begich is a co-sponsor of the bill.
Participants raised serious concerns that, when adjusted for inflation, wages have declined by one-third since 1968. The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour for full-time work actually puts a family of two or more below the poverty line.
“Raising the minimum wage will change businesses for the better,” said Senator Begich, “As small business owners, my wife Deborah and I pay above Alaska’s minimum wage of $7.75. We know that higher take-home pay reduces employee turnover and increases productivity and morale. This is not just about economics; it’s a civil rights issue, a woman’s issue, and a family issue.”
“The American economy is on the mend, but with more than four years since the last increase in the minimum wage, low-wage workers are increasingly unable to keep up with the rising cost of basic necessities like rent, groceries, and child care,” Harkin said. “The simple truth is that today’s minimum wage has only a fraction of the buying power it had at its peak in 1968, and it’s time for us to fix that. By passing the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, we can give 28 million hardworking Americans the raise they deserve, help them to provide for their families, and give a boost to the local businesses where they shop.”
“It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do and I’m urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to give America’s workers the lift they need,” Harkin added.
The Minimum Wage Fairness Act would raise worker pay on the federal level from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016, as well as increase the income of tipped workers, lifting 4.6 million people out of poverty. The legislation has 29 Democratic co-sponsors. Senate Democrats underscored their commitment to the issue and expressed hope for swift action on the measure this year.