Joined by business leaders and workers, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) today announced the introduction of legislation, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, to raise the federal minimum wage. Miller and Harkin's proposal would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current $7.25--in three steps of 95 cents--then provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living. Miller and Harkin's bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers--which currently stands at just $2.13 an hour--for the first time in more than 20 years, to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
"Millions of Americans clean our offices, wait on customers in restaurants and stores, and provide care for our children, parents, or grandparents. Yet, despite all they do to keep our economy running, minimum wage workers earn just $7.25 an hour -- not enough to pay the bills, much less aspire to the American Dream," Harkin said. "Building the middle class in this country means building opportunity for workers earning at or near the minimum wage, who are falling further and further behind each day. They are working hard and playing by the rules, and they deserve a chance to build a better life for their families. That's why this legislation is so important.
"Raising the minimum wage is also about growing our economy. With an increase in the minimum wage, workers will have more money to spend. This is just basic economics: increased demand means increased economic activity," Harkin continued. "They will spend their money in their communities, giving a boost to Main Street and generating new jobs."
"Income inequality is one of the greatest threats to America's long-term economic vitality, yet we are widening that inequality with wages that subject people to live in poverty. Even during a so-called "golden age of corporate profits,' millions of working families are falling behind because their paychecks aren't keeping up. That's immoral and that's undermining our economy," Miller said. "Raising the minimum wage is especially critical for working women who make up a disproportionate share of minimum wage workers today. As we mark Women's History Month, we should ensure that working women and families don't fall into poverty even though they work for a living. It's time for them to get a raise. It's time to grow our economy from the bottom up. It's time for $10.10."
The unveiling of the bill, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, comes three weeks after President Obama highlighted increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address. At a news conference in Washington today, Harkin and Miller were joined by Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce; Andy Shallal, owner of several Washington-area restaurants; Amie Crawford, a Chicago fast-food worker; and Gregory Reynoso, a New York pizza delivery driver, to discuss why raising the minimum wage is good for both the economy and for working families.
"Raising the minimum wage puts dollars in the pockets of people who are by necessity most likely to spend them immediately at the grocery store, the childcare provider, the auto-repair shop and other local businesses. Raising the minimum wage boosts the economy from the bottom up, which is exactly what we need to repower our economy and create lasting jobs," said Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce. "Many of the members of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce were once employees themselves. They know that the typical low-wage worker is an adult woman, and they know that raising the minimum wage helps women workers and business owners succeed. 17 million women will get a raise under the Harkin-Miller proposal."
"For restaurants and other businesses to be sustainable and successful, we cannot just talk about the food we serve, but rather about how we treat and compensate the very people who are cooking our meals, serving our meals, and washing our dishes," said Andy Shallal, owner of several Washington-area restaurants. "Our minimum wage at Busboys and Poets and Eatonville is $10.25 per hour and has been such for over a year. We hire tipped as well as non-tipped employees. If tipped employees don't earn $10.25 after tips, we make up the difference. My restaurants are growing and thriving, and fair pay is fundamental to our success."