3 Out of 4 Americans Agree: It’s Time to Raise the Wage

Ed. Note: This was cross-posted on the White House blog.  See the post here.

Today I went up to Capitol Hill, on behalf of the president, to join Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. George Miller in supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Even though we won’t recognize the holiday until Monday, today is actually Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 85th birthday. And in championing this cause, we are carrying forward his legacy. In 1966, he said:

“We know of no more crucial civil rights issue facing Congress today than the need to increase the federal minimum wage…”

But it’s not just civil rights visionaries who have understood the imperative of wage growth. Exactly 100 years ago, no less a capitalist than Henry Ford took an unheard-of step — he doubled the wages of the workers on his Dearborn, Mich., assembly line, with this explanation:

“If we can distribute high wages, then that money is going to be spent and it will serve to make storekeepers and distributors and manufacturers and workers in other lines more prosperous and their prosperity will be reflected in our sales. Countrywide high wages spell countrywide prosperity.”

A century later, that is still true. Raising the minimum wage isn’t just pro-worker; it’s pro-economic growth. Putting money in the pockets of working families, as Henry Ford explained, means they’ll spend it on goods and services, which in turn helps businesses thrive and create more jobs.

That’s why 75 percent of Americans − including so many business leaders I speak to − support a higher federal minimum wage. That’s why there’s a proud bipartisan history of raising the wage.

Minimum Wage Map 2014The typical minimum wage earner is a provider and a breadwinner – most likely a woman –responsible for paying bills, running a household and raising children. How can we expect her to get by on a wage that, in real terms, isn’t worth as much as it was in the 1950s?

The value of the minimum wage simply hasn’t kept up with the cost of living, including the essentials a family needs to survive: a gallon of milk, a gallon of gas, monthly rent, a pair of children’s shoes and more.

Wages also haven’t kept up with workers’ output. Since 1979, productivity has increased more than 90 percent, but real average hourly earnings have gone up only 3.2 percent.

President Obama believes that income inequality is one of the most pressing matters facing the nation. If we are going to be a country that provides ladders of opportunity and believes in a thriving middle class, then we have to raise the minimum wage.

But don’t take my word for it. In recent weeks, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with many low-wage workers – proud men and women who want nothing more than a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I’ve looked into their eyes and seen their struggle and their sacrifice; their dignity and self-respect.

They wake up every morning and do their jobs. Now it’s time for Congress to do its job. It’s time to give minimum wage workers the raise they need, the raise they’ve earned, the raise they deserve. 

Follow Secretary Perez on Twitter as @LaborSec and join the conversation on minimum wage using the hashtag #RaiseTheWage.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Jennifer Osborn-Mumau says:

    STOP and take a look at this
    What are you saying to the thousands of individual that place many of you in the positions you currently hold? Yes the working class that has worked for many years at wages far below what they should get. Many individuals have worked at jobs only to earn 10 cent to a dollar to stay in employee myself included. Look at what you are telling the younger generation??
    1. So many don’ care about working they will attend college after high school just to sit in class and soak up the free money, while their love ones work sometimes 2 -3 jobs to make ends meet.
    2. They already thing that they are entitled to have a free ride, by making their $10.10 the new wage will just create more of an excuse for them to later increase this when we are on Medicare and Medicaid.
    3. I have children they work and understand that nothing is worth achieving if you don’t work at it and try.
    Look at the middle age adults:
    Oh yes by the way what are they thinking? How could you do this? I speak for many who want to speak but are afraid. So I went back to college to earn my degrees and struggle with work, bills and now you’re just going to give everyone $10.10 an hour. Really what a slap in the face.
    Older adults: Yes most are in shock that you even consider the amount of 10.10 did you forget where you came from or how hard your parents work to get things in life you may have needed?
    American the land of free and new entrepreneurs? Not if the wage goes up. Who will want to start a business or sell anything to the consumers? Good by dollar menu Hello 5.00 and up prices. /Sorry dollar stores is now the 5 and up

  2. Sally Williar says:

    While I agree, most US families are struggling to afford basic living necessities, my thinking is by raising the minimum wage, the cost of goods, services, etc will increase in order for employers to meet the increased wage requirements. In addition, those currently making more than the minimum wage, will also expect an increase in their wage. This is only creating a vicious cycle.

    I have a bachelor degree, and since 2008 have been unemployed two times, was affected by a government lay-off (and did not receive back compensation), and my current wage is almost 1/2 of what I was earning before my first ever receipt of unemployment in over 30 years of being in the workforce.

    In my opinion, minimum wage is for young people who are working while in school or for individuals looking for additional income. Minimum wage earners should have an opportunity to learn a trade or attend school to move them into a better paying position. Minimum wage positions should not be a life-long career.

  3. Lynette says:

    Is this creating a cycle? Increase wages means the labor for producing a product will go up. Let’s face it the manufacturer is not taking a loss and will increase the cost of the product causing the product price to increase i.e. milk, shoes etc. So subsequently the same poeple that just received a raise will still not be able to afford the cost of living. Just a thought. Also for that tipped employees part of their wages is tipp b/c they provide a service. Do you think a restaurant is going to keep employees around if they have to pay them for performing a service. They will figure out a way of making them work more and maybe reduce labor in order areas such as dishwash etc. Raising the minimum wage will place a A LOT of small business at risk because they would not be able to sustain payroll. I wonder if when these items are discussed are people looking at small business or do you just wish to wipe them all out of existence? Hence the small mom and pop restaurant who is barely making payroll now??? Just a thought!

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