1. Update
  2. Economic Justice

#RaiseTheWage: A Moral Imperative

March 23, 2015


It is time for Congress to restore the value of the minimum wage, and to allow it to fulfill its intended purpose by raising the wage floor, eliminating the sub-minimum tipped wage, and affixing both to the nation’s median wage.

Today’s minimum wage workers are far from the living wage their counterparts earned in 1968, and further still from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision for the federal wage floor when he advocated for it in 1933, saying, “by living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of a decent living” in his famous statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act.

It is not enough, though, to leave raising wages to individual cities and companies; every working American deserves the opportunity to earn a “decent living,” and Congress has a responsibility to provide that opportunity.

The federal minimum wage, which has not been raised since 2009, has slipped in value to a paltry 37% of the median income of working Americans; to put this in perspective, consider that the minimum wage was equivalent to 55% of the median income in the year 1968 . As inflation and the cost of living have continued to rise, compensation for a quarter of our workforce has stagnated. The ghastly low wage that America now offers its workforce perpetuates cyclical poverty instead of lifting the working out of hardship, as it was intended to do. It is time for Congress to restore the value of the minimum wage, and to allow it to fulfill its intended purpose by raising the wage floor, eliminating the sub-minimum tipped wage, and affixing both to the nation’s median wage. These congressional actions would reduce income inequality, address the condition of the American working poor, and lift millions out of poverty.

Among the abundant misconceptions about America’s 3.3 million minimum wage workers is a widespread notion that minimum wage earners are mainly teens who work a part-time job for supplementary income. In reality, the minimum wage is often the sole source of income for entire families. A recent study done by National Employment Law Center demonstrates this in showing that nearly half of minimum wage earners are over the age of 25, and 30% of them are working full-time . If we were to restore the value of the minimum wage to its value in 1968 (somewhere around $12.00 an hour in the year 2020) it would lift all families with 1 or 2 working parents and 2 or fewer children above the poverty threshold, approximating the “decent living” that the minimum wage was intended to provide.

America is ready for the wage floor to be raised. Cities and private companies across the nation have already begun to recognize the positive repercussions and necessity of raising wages, and are leading the way in the movement for higher pay. It is not enough, though, to leave raising wages to individual cities and companies; every working American deserves the opportunity to earn a “decent living,” and Congress has a responsibility to provide that opportunity. There is widespread public support for this action by congress, as evidenced by a recent study, which show that 75% of Americans are in support of raising the federal minimum wage .

Congress must lead the effort raising the minimum wage. It’s time for the United States to offer its workforce a decent living.