Wednesday, February 23, 2005
If George W. Bush finishes a second term and avoids adjusting the federal minimum wage, we will have completed an 11-year record stretch without any adjustment. The previous record of nine years was brought to us by Ronald Reagan. The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is over 40 percent below the 1968 level adjusted for inflation. A full-time worker taking no vacation or holidays and earning the federal minimum wage earns 55 percent of the federal poverty line for a family of four and a much smaller percentage of what it takes to actually pay the rent and basic living expenses in most parts of the country. Such a worker qualifies for much of what remains of public support and assistance, placing the burden on taxpayers to pick up where employers fail to pay a living wage.
Grassroots organizations have responded to the static minimum wage by focusing on the state level. After winning living wage laws in 123 cities and counties (laws that mandate higher minimums for certain categories of workers) and city-wide minimum wage hikes covering all workers in four cities (D.C., Santa Fe, San Francisco and Madison), the campaign for decent wage standards has shifted the battleground to the state level.