Today is kind of a big deal for advocates pushing for a higher minimum wage (myself included). As you may have heard, in his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to keep pace with inflation – and did so eloquently, I might add:
"We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. …
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. …For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."
And there’s another reason today is important in the minimum wage fight: February 13 is 2.13 – and $2.13 is the minimum hourly cash wage that millions of tipped workers have been paid since 1991. (Though President Obama didn’t mention the tipped minimum wage in his remarks, the White House affirms that it should be increased along with the regular minimum wage.) Today, tipped workers from across the country convened in Washington, DC to call for the fair wages they have been denied for far too long. Read more »
Remember when a hot dog and a soda cost 39 cents? Yeah, neither do we.
We all know that restaurant prices rise nearly every year with inflation. The cost of everything from groceries to gas to rent rises, too. But many workers have not seen their wages rise in years, leaving them straining to make ends meet on paychecks that keep getting smaller relative to the cost of living.
For our neighbors in Maryland, the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum, and the minimum cash wage for tipped workers is woefully low at $3.63 per hour (though higher than the federal floor of $2.13 per hour). If the minimum wage had risen with inflation over the past several decades, it would be close to $10.60 per hour today. But neither the minimum wage nor the tipped minimum wage is linked to inflation in Maryland, so the purchasing power of these extremely low wages erodes further each year.
It’s not often that I come to work and find I can credit the same person with the inspiration for both yesterday’s dinner and today’s blog post – but today I’d like to thank Mark Bittman for his delicious tomato panzanella recipe as well as his brilliant NY Times Opinionator post on the substandard wages and working conditions faced by many food industry workers.
Bittman’s blog post may not be as fun to read as some of his other writing, but it sheds light on a serious issue that is too often overlooked, even by foodies who go to great lengths to assure that farmers and animals are treated with respect. As Bittman observes, “If you care about sustainability — the capacity to endure — it’s time to expand our definition to include workers. You can’t call food sustainable when it’s produced by people whose capacity to endure is challenged by poverty-level wages.” Read more »
This blog post is a part of NWLC’s Mother’s Day 2012 blog series. For all our Mother’s Day posts, please click here.
As you probably know, Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday. Here at the National Women’s Law Center, we care a lot about mothers – not only our own (although you’re totally awesome, Mom!), but also the millions of women across the country who are trying to raise kids, care for their own aging parents, climb the career ladder, save for retirement, and protect their health – often all at the same time, and often with the odds stacked against them. My work in the Family Economic Security program focuses on advancing policies that help low-income women and their families make ends meet, and if you’ve seen any of my blog posts lately, you’ll know one policy change that could really help working moms is an increase in the minimum wage.
Women are nearly two-thirds of workers making the federal minimum wage or less. Many of them are mothers struggling to support their families on earnings of less than $15,000 a year for full time work. And on top of their tough jobs – waiting tables, caring for children and homebound seniors, cleaning homes and offices – many face the nearly impossible task of finding affordable care for their children while they’re at work, often without a single paid sick day to fall back on in an emergency.
The Rebuild America Act, introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) in late March, would help address several challenges that low-income working moms face by raising the minimum wage, including the minimum cash wage for tipped workers; expanding funding for child care assistance; and guaranteeing paid sick days. Read more »
On April 17, women’s earnings from 2011 and 2012 will finally match their male counterparts’ 2011 earnings. Yes, it takes women a little over 15 months to make the same income that it takes men to make in 12. How is it that in 2012, women are still only making 77 cents to a man’s dollar? We have been fighting for equality for so long! We have had success – like the Equal Pay Act and, more recently, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But we still have a long way to go.
We have even further to go now that the Wisconsin legislature and the Governor of Wisconsin repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which beefed up the penalties for pay discrimination and the relief available to victims. This means that if a woman in Wisconsin finds that she is being paid less than her male counterpart, she has fewer remedies and less relief available to her than she did before. And given that pay discrimination is hard to identify and hard to challenge, that’s definitely a step in the wrong direction.
The Rebuild America Act lays out a vision of a better America for women and their families.
Now this is more like it! You and I both know that we've had to spend a lot of time playing defense to protect critical programs and hard-won rights. But while we've been on the defensive, we've also been advocating for policies that lift up and support ALL Americans and that provide a clear path to a better future.
Now our efforts are paying off. Just yesterday, Senator Tom Harkin introduced the Rebuild America Act, which would improve economic security for women and their families. The Rebuild America Act makes investments to promote widely shared prosperity and finances them in a fair and fiscally responsible way.
What kinds of prosperity are we talking about? First and foremost — jobs. The Rebuild America Act recognizes the need for quantity and quality when it comes to job creation. The bill provides funding to help states and localities hire teachers and other public service workers — an especially crucial sector for women, who have lost nearly 70 percent of the public sector jobs cut since June of 2009. It also invests in infrastructure and manufacturing — and increases support for job training and education to expand access to these jobs among underrepresented populations. Read more »
Unfortunately, the update from Arizona is not good. Yesterday, the Arizona House passed HCR 2056. The legislature has changed the ballot initiative since it was first introduced, but it has just changed how it would propose to cut the minimum wage. The initiative has been amended to remove the provisions cutting the minimum wage for tipped workers and young workers specifically, but language has been added that would end the current law policy of indexing of the minimum wage for inflation. This means that the state minimum wage, which is now slightly higher than the federal minimum ($7.65 an hour rather than $7.25), will only go up when Congress raises the federal minimum – and that’s not often. In fact, if the federal minimum wage were keeping pace with inflation, it would be more than $10 per hour, rather than the current level of $7.25. Read more »
Today, unfortunately, I bring you grim news about two states that are proposing to cut the minimum wage for tipped workers and younger workers. Legislators in Florida and Arizona have proposed new measures that would make their already low tipped minimum cash wages even lower.
In Florida, Senate Bill 2106 would cut the state tipped minimum cash wage from $4.65 to the federal minimum of just $2.13 (which, in addition to being bad policy, may also violate the state constitution). In Arizona, the House Committee on Commerce has approved a ballot initiative, HCR 2056, which would lower the state’s tipped minimum cash wage from $4.65 to $2.53.
The Arizona proposal would also slash the minimum wage for workers under the age of 20 in part time or temporary jobs by up to $3.00, from $7.65 to $4.65. Read more »