Issue Position: Minimum Wage
Massachusetts was the pioneer for fair wages when in 1912 it became the first state to enact a minimum wage law for women and children. Since its inception in 1938, the federal minimum wage has been raised over the years to adjust for inflation and enhance the purchasing power of American wages. Currently at $5.15 an hour, Congress has not provided minimum wage earners with a raise in over eight years. However, in the last nine years, Congress has voted itself seven pay increases. If a pay raise is important enough for members of Congress, then it is essential for the lowest paid workers in this country. Increasing the minimum wage has a broad beneficial impact on the U.S. economy, and enables millions of Americans to escape poverty and afford a better quality of life. Senator Kennedy will continue to work for legislation that provides all Americans with a fair wage.
* Over the past eight years, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has deteriorated by 17 percent. After adjusting for inflation, the value of the minimum wage is at its second lowest level since 1955.
* A minimum wage worker who works full-time, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, earns only $10,700 a year. [Website]
* Woman, minority and low-income workers are the largest groups to benefit from a minimum wage increase. [Economic Policy Institute]
* The number of Americans in poverty has increased by 5.3 million since President Bush took office. Thirty-seven million people live in poverty, including thirteen million children.
* If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as CEO pay since 1990, "the lowest paid workers in the U.S. would be earning $23.03 an hour today." [United for a Fair Economy]
* Since the inception of the minimum wage, there has been only one other period (from 1981 to 1990) in which the minimum wage has remained unchanged for more than eight years.
* The minimum wage now equals only 32 percent of the average wage for private sector, nonsupervisory workers. This is the lowest share since 1949
* According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage would benefit 7.3 million low-income workers.
* Adults make up the largest share of workers whose wages would be raised by a minimum wage increase. [Economic Policy Institute]
* The real value of the minimum wage peaked in 1968, when it was equivalent to a wage of $7.54 an hour. During the 1970s, the wage floor averaged $6.71 an hour in today's dollars.