Leahy and Sanders join Welch in call for raising federal minimum wage
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative Bernie Sanders joined Peter Welch today to call for raising the federal minimum wage to Vermont's level.
The pre-Labor Day weekend press conference was held at the Radio Deli, a small convenience store in Burlington.
The three Vermont leaders were sharply critical of the Republican controlled Congress' refusal to raise the federal minimum wage since the last vote in 1995.
"A reasonable minimum wage is necessary if you value work and want to ensure opportunity to everyone willing to contribute to our community," said Welch, who made raising the minimum wage the first plank of his campaign's economic security platform.
"Cynical is the only way to describe the Republican leadership's recent ploy to tie cutting the estate tax for some of the wealthiest Americans with a much needed increase in the minimum wage for the lowest wage earners," charged Welch.
"Asking millions of our neighbors to work full time without a wage above poverty is wrong," added Welch.
A full-time minimum wage worker earns just $10,712 annually, which is more than $2,000 below the poverty line for a family of two (Economics Policy Institute, January 2006). Raising the federal minimum wage to Vermont's standard of $7.25 would allow a full-time minimum wage worker to earn about $2,000 above the poverty line.
The New York Times reported this week that the median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003. Wages now make up the lowest share of the nation's GDP since the measure began in 1947, yet corporate profits are at their highest since the 1960s [8.28.06].
"I believe we need to restore a balance. I believe we need to reward work. And I believe that Congress should raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour to lift every minimum wage worker out of poverty," said Welch when he first called for a raise in the minimum wage in May.