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My Turn: Best way to honor workers is by giving them a raise

It used to be that you could support a family on a minimum-wage salary. Today, a minimum-wage worker has to make a choice every day: buy a gallon of milk for the kids or buy a gallon of gas to get to work.

The current national minimum wage, frozen at $7.25 per hour since 2009, simply hasn’t kept up with inflation. As a matter of fact, its purchasing power has declined by one-third since the 1960s, and it’s worth less today than it was in 1981. Bus fare has certainly gone up since 1981. Same with the price of a dozen eggs, or a week of child care. Landlords aren’t sending out rent decreases. And yet the value of the minimum wage is eroding.

It’s time to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, which would make a difference in the lives of 28 million people, including 108,500 residents of New Hampshire, where the minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour.

President Obama first asked Congress last year to increase the minimum wage, but that call has fallen on deaf ears. Fortunately, people around the country aren’t waiting. A national movement, drawing its strength from grassroots energy, is inspiring states, local governments and forward-looking businesses to show leadership where Congress hasn’t.

Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have passed new laws increasing their state minimum wages over the last year and a half. A total of more than 7 million workers will benefit from those increases.

A higher minimum wage is pro-business as well as pro-worker. Employers large and small, debunking the conventional wisdom, have embraced a higher minimum wage and acted on their own to raise their employees’ pay.

From national brands like Costco and the Gap, to the Ace Hardware store just a mile away from my office, companies are giving their workers a raise not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do for the bottom line. It improves morale, productivity and customer service; it reduces absenteeism, turnover and training costs.

Besides, many employers believe that the people who make or sell their products ought to make enough money to buy them. In an economy driven by consumer demand, what any business needs most are customers. When working families have more money in their pockets, they pump it right back into the economy. They spend it on goods and services in their communities – and that helps businesses grow, which creates more jobs.

In addition to asking Congress to act, President Obama is doing what he can to help more workers get a raise.

He signed an executive order, which we at the Labor Department are in the process of implementing, to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for private sector workers on federal contracts. It’s hard to argue against our rationale: If you serve meals to our troops for a living, you shouldn’t have to go on food stamps in order to serve a meal to your family at home.

As we celebrate Labor Day, the holiday that honors the working men and women who contribute to the strength and prosperity of our nation, let’s honor them in a real and meaningful way: let’s give them a raise.

(Thomas E. Perez is the U.S. Secretary of Labor.)

Legacy Comments6

The dirty little secret is that we're all subsidizing the employers who don't pay more than a minimum (living) wage, as their employees get by using public- and private-funded services like food banks, food stamps, medical service in emergency rooms, rent assistance, the list goes on.

Johns entire political platform can be read here: http://www.cpusa.org/party-program/

If you believe the statistics submitted then you are a LIDV. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the move would cost over 500,000 jobs by 2016. Even the Latino democrats in their legislature stopped the increase in California. Over 500 economists signed an open letter opposing a federal minimum wage increase. Among 28 states that increased their minimum wages from 2003 through 2007, it had no impact on poverty, according to the Southern Economic Journal. The assumption that the government can decree the price of a commodity --labor -- in defiance of the dictates of the market without ill effects equires a heroic suspension of disbelief. Democrats ideas are so popular they have to make them mandatory .

Did you read the report? --- Yes, a few will lose jobs (0.3 percent), that's an estimate of 500,000 out of 167,000,000 workers. That's not good, but what about the estimated 16,500,000 who will benefit directly? --- And that doesn't include benefits to the overall economy of the increased spending of those who receive wage hikes (low income people mostly spend their extra earnings). --- It's fair to argue against an increase in the minimum wage, but please tell the whole story, not just one side.

silly boy - where does the money come from ? John are you too a socialist like the other LIDV posters here?

LIDV? Laboratoires Industriels De Vichy. Use English please.

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