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In Gwen Guthrie’s 1986 hit “Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent” she asserts that having a J-O-B is an important criteria for starting a family –okay maybe I’m reaching – LOL! But her premise is that being employed brings a certain level of financial security. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, millions of people work full-time and still exist well under the poverty line.

Why do people who work hard full-time still struggle to live? There are many reasons but one problem is that the federal minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. In fact the federal minimum wage has not increased in three years. And, it has already lost 7% of its value since 2009. On top of that, tipped-workers haven’t seen an increase in their $2.13 per hour wages in over 20 years!!

Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage earners are women. At just $7.25 an hour, or roughly $14,500 per year, the current federal minimum is leaving working families in poverty. This week on "MomsRising Radio with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner," we heard from experts and leaders along with the stories of working moms trying to raise families off of the outdated federal minimum wage (a link to listen to the podcast is below in the PS.). We heard from moms like Margaret Lewis, a passenger transporter from Chicago who often works more than 65-70 hours per week.

“I have been on my job 11 years and I still make minimum wage… It’s really hard to survive on Chicago's minimum wage ($8.25 per hour). As a mom, you can’t make ends meet...”  - Margaret Lewis, IL

Listen to the full show here:

TODAY is National Raise the Minimum Wage Day and MomsRising is joining ROC-United (the Restaurant Opportunities Center), National Women's Law Center (NWLC), CREDO Mobile, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Employment Law Project (NELP) in calling on U.S. House members to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act!

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour, increase the tipped minimum cash wage from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and index the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. Increasing the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage are key steps toward fair pay for women.

Raising the minimum wage isn't just good for women and families; it's good for our economy.  Putting more money into the pockets of ordinary people would give a much-needed boost to our economy.  What businesses in this country need today are customers--and the problem is that too many people aren’t making enough money to get by right now so consumer spending is down.  If we reduce income inequality, then we will boost our economy, help small businesses grow, and create jobs.

People who work hard should be able to make a living wage; but too often that's not possible at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Here are the facts:

  • Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers.
  • A woman working full-time, year round at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500 – more than $3,000 below the poverty line for a family of three.
  • The federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour and has not been increased in 20 years.
  • Women are nearly two-thirds of workers in tipped occupations.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $9.80 per hour would boost earnings for more than 28 million workers, nearly 55 percent of them women, and help close the wage gap between women and men.

We are gaining momentum thanks to the hundreds of thousands of people who petitioned their Senators to support Senator Tom Harkin's Rebuild America Act - Senate Bill 2252, which would raise the federal minimum wage.  Now, Representative George Miller has introduced parallel legislation on the House side that increases the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 by 2014, then indexes it to inflation thereafter. He has asked his colleagues in the House to co-sponsor the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 is significant for a number of reasons. It will index the minimum wage so that it automatically increases every year, giving workers a raise they can count on without having to wait for Congress to act. At a time when corporate profit margins in the U.S. economy are at an all-time high, employees' wages as a percent of the economy have hit an all-time low.

When families get a boost, the economy does too! According to a recent study, disproportionate numbers of new jobs created in the current economic climate are jobs that pay by the hour, and many of the fastest growing types of jobs pay well below $10 per hour.  With the economy still struggling, Congress needs to use every tool available to ensure the quality of new jobs created, so that we have a meaningful recovery — and nothing will have greater impact than increasing the minimum wage for all workers.

*TAKE ACTION: Tell your representative: Co-sponsor the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 to raise the minimum wage and boost the economy.


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