KENNEDY, STABENOW, KLOBUCHAR JOIN WOMEN'S GROUPS TO PUSH FOR AN INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE
Today, Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Debbie Stabenow, and Amy Klobuchar joined members from the National Organization of Women, Institute for Women's Policy Research, and the National Women's Law Center to discuss the much-needed increase in the minimum wage.
"More than seven and a half million American women would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage. More than half of these women have children. Almost 40% are women of color," Senator Kennedy said. "These women aren't just numbers. They're your friends and neighbors, your sisters and your daughters, working hard each day to improve their lives and provide for their families."
This week, the Senate is debating Kennedy's bill to give America's workers the raise they deserve. Sixty per cent of minimum wage workers are women, and 1.4 million single parents most of whom are women would benefit from the increase.
After almost 10 years with no increase in the minimum wage, the value of the current wage has dropped more than 20% and continues to plummet. Each year we fail to raise the minimum wage marks a year that families across the country fall farther behind in the struggle to make ends meet.
STATEMENT BY SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON MINIMUM WAGE
(AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY)
Workers are continuing to struggle in the Bush economy. Americans are putting in more hours, and more effort. Our productivity is soaring, but workers aren't seeing the benefits of their efforts. Instead, they're struggling with rising prices and stagnant wages, with no hope of relief in sight.
This economic insecurity is particularly affecting women. The lowest-paying jobs in our society are overwhelmingly dominated by women. Half of all women in America work in low-paying jobs that leave them with little security. Women serve our food. They clean our houses and hotel rooms. They care for the sick and the elderly, and help our children learn and grow.
Today, too many of these women are struggling to survive on poverty wages that do not reflect the dignity or value of their work.
More than seven and a half million American women would benefit from a raise in the minimum wage. More than half of these women have children. Almost 40% are women of color.
These women aren't just numbers. They're your friends and neighbors, your sisters and your daughters, working hard each day to improve their lives and provide for their families.
In my 44 years in the Senate, I have been fortunate enough to meet many of these women, and I have heard from many more. Yesterday, I heard from Tonya Schmidt. Tonya is a single mother with two children - ages 8 and 11. She works at Little Ceasar's pizza - it's hard work, but she likes her job and she's good at it. Tonya talked about how hard it is for her to get by each month. Her family lives in a converted motel room, but she still has trouble making rent. She doesn't have a car, but relies on friends and family to take her to the grocery store to buy food for her kids.
Tonya talked about the difficult choices she has to make - how she can't afford basic necessities for her children. "Clothes," she said, are the hardest. She often can't afford to buy her children the clothes they need for school. Tonya says a higher minimum wage would help her provide her kids with these basic necessities. And it might help her get a few steps ahead - to buy a used car and pay for car insurance so that she could get to the grocery store on her own.
And then there's Constance Martin of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Constance used to have a good job that paid a decent wage. But then her son got cancer. She was forced to choose between that job and taking care of her child. So now she works for $5.50 an hour at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Her job has no healthcare or other benefits. She can barely afford to pay the rent and the utilities, much less to give her son the care he needs. When Pennsylvania raised its minimum wage at the state level last year it was a help, but still not enough to keep pace with the cost of living.
A federal raise would allow her to pay off her bills and provide for her son's future, instead of living day-to-day, hand-to-mouth just to get by.
There are millions of American women like Tonya and Constance all across the country. They are working hard and playing by the rules. They are workers and they are caregivers. They are the foundation of this great nation, and they deserve a fair wage that will give them real security, and hope for a better future.
I'm proud to be joined today by two Senators who know firsthand the challenges that working women are facing. It's always a pleasure to share the stage with my good friend Debbie Stabenow, and it's an honor to welcome one of our newest Senators, Amy Klobuchar.