News Release

Empty Anniversary: Minimum Wage Stuck as Poverty Climbs


July 24 is the anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase to $7.25 in 2009. The minimum had been increased on July 24 on 2007, 2008 and 2009 and not since. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California have proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.80 by 2014 in three annual steps and then adjusting it for inflation.

An AP survey finds: “The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.”

HOLLY SKLAR, hsklar at
Director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage and co-author of Raise The Floor: Wages and Policies That Work For All Of Us, Sklar said: “Time flies when you’re moving backward. With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour – just $15,080 a year — since 2009, workers now have less buying power than they did in 1997 at the start of the longest period in history without a raise. At minimum wage’s high point in value in 1968, retail workers, cooks, health aides and other minimum wage workers made $10.55 adjusted for inflation. The biggest problem for Main Street businesses is lack of customer demand. We can’t build a strong economy on downwardly mobile wages. It’s time to raise America by raising the minimum wage.”

LEW PRINCE, debussyhayden at
Co-owner of Vintage Vinyl, an independent music store in St. Louis, Missouri, and a leader in Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, Prince said: “Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. People are falling out of the middle class instead of rising into it. Putting money in the hands of people who desperately need it to buy goods and services will give us a trickle-up effect. I’m sick of my tax dollars subsidizing money machines like Walmart and McDonald’s that are dribbling out wages their workers can’t live on, lobbying against minimum wage increases, and draining the lifeblood out of our local economies.”

ARIEL JACOBSON, ajacobson at
Jacobson is senior associate in the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s Economic Justice Program, an international human rights organization based in Cambridge, Mass. and is on the board on Let Justice Roll. She said today: “Raising the minimum wage is an economic necessity and a moral issue that should weigh on our national conscience. The least we can do is to make up lost ground and bring the minimum wage closer to the adequate living standard it was intended to be. Raising the minimum wage is a moral and economic imperative for the future of our workers and communities, our economy and our democracy.”