National Employment Law Project Action Fund

For Immediate Release: July 24, 2013

Contact: Laura Brandon, Laura.Brandon@berlinrosen.com (202) 641-8477 / Daniel Massey, Daniel@berlinrosen.com, (917) 370-7312

NEW POLL: Overwhelming Majority of Americans View Minimum Wage Increase as Important Priority for Congress Over Next Year

Members of Congress call for passage of Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 after four years without a federal minimum wage increase; rallies planned in over 30 cities across the country to demand higher wages for millions of America’s lowest-paid workers

Washington, DC – As four years pass without an increase in the federal minimum wage, a new poll released Wednesday finds that 80 percent of Americans – including 62 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Independents – support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and indexing it to the cost of living, as proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) earlier this year. According to the poll, 74 percent of Americans consider raising the minimum wage to be an important legislative priority for Congress to address over the next year.

As members of Congress, business leaders, and workers gather in Washington on Wednesday to call for immediate passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, thousands of low-wage workers and their supporters in over 30 cities throughout the U.S. will hold rallies at major retail and fast food corporations, as part of a National Day of Action to raise wages for millions of America’s lowest-paid workers.

With Democratic leaders signaling plans to make raising the federal minimum wage a high-profile issue ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, the new poll finds that Congressional candidates who support legislation raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour gain a substantial 36 percent net advantage (51% more likely to support, 15% less). More than twice as many voters believe that Republicans will be more to blame than Democrats if Congress fails to raise the federal minimum wage over the next year, according to the poll, which was conducted by Hart Research Associates from July 15-17. [Top-line results of poll available here]

“Four years without a raise is three years too many,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) on Wednesday. “While millions of workers have been without a raise, costs have continued to climb. Between 2009 and 2012, rent has gone up 4 percent, food is 8 percent more expensive, child care costs 9 percent more, and public transportation takes a 13 percent bigger bite out of workers’ wallets.  We have to make sure that working families can keep up with the economy. Also, by increasing the minimum wage, we can give tens of millions of workers more money in their paychecks to spend at local businesses, increasing sales and boosting economic activity.”

“The American people understand that a decent minimum wage is not a handout,” said Rep. George Miller (D-CA). “It’s about valuing work. The pressure to act is building.  We now see majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents in all corners of the country support this raise. The time has come for American workers to get a raise. It’s time to grow our economy from the bottom up.”

At a noon press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Rep. Miller will join Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) in calling for Congressional action to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (H.R. 1010 / S. 460). Over 140 members of the House of Representatives have joined as co-sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, along with 30 members of the Senate.

The Hart Research poll confirms that opposition to the federal minimum wage remains an extreme position that is out of step with the views of the vast majority of voters. Last month, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated in a Senate HELP Committee hearing that he would favor abolishing the federal minimum wage altogether: according to the poll, fully 80 percent of voters, including 72 percent of Republican voters, disagree with abolishing the minimum wage.

“When it comes to the minimum wage, every year without an increase means that millions of America’s lowest-paid workers are forced to take a pay cut as the cost of basic expenses continues to rise,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund. “Stagnant wages are a recipe for disaster for working families and the America economy alike.”

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would raise the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2015, and it would provide for annual increases to the rate in future years to keep pace with the rising cost of living, a key reform known as “indexing” that  ten states have already successfully implemented. The bill would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from its current low rate of $2.13 per hour, where it has been frozen since 1991, to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost pay for more than 30 million low-wage workers. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, 88 percent of these workers are adults over the age of 20; 85 percent work more than 20 hours per week; and 43 percent have at least some college education.  The minimum wage is also a staple of support for many families:  more than 15 million children in the U.S. have a parent who would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

With 70 percent of the economy driven by consumer demand, businesses cite lack of demand as a major reason they are not hiring. However, with overall wage growth stagnant and declining in low paid occupations, many consumers just don’t have the money to spend. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would generate more than $32 billion in new economic activity, supporting the creation of 140,000 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased demand.

The most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high. A recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research reviews the past two decades of research on the impact of minimum wage increases on employment and concludes that “the weight of the evidence points to little or no effect of minimum wage increases on job growth.”

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund is a project of The Advocacy Fund.

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