The legislation backed by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D) and California Rep. George Miller (D) would, like Obama’s proposal, index the minimum wage to inflation so that it keeps up with the cost of living over time. Harkin and Miller told the Huffington Post that raising the minimum wage was “a matter of justice” for low-income workers:
“When you see what’s happened to CEO salaries and compensation since the 1970s, and what’s happened to the minimum wage, it’s just startling,” Harkin said. “We can’t continue on this way. We need a higher minimum wage.”
“People do see the minimum wage as a matter of justice for people who don’t have the ability to bargain for decent wages,” Miller said. “And that’s all this is — it’s a minimum wage. Nobody’s walking away from here rich.”
As Harkin noted, executive salaries have skyrocketed over the last three decades, rising 127 times faster than worker pay. Corporate profits have also risen to record levels, but the minimum wage hasn’t kept up, even as low-wage jobs are becoming more prevalent after the Great Recession. The minimum wage reached its peak buying power in 1968; to equal that buying power today, it would have to be $9.92 an hour. Had it been indexed to inflation in 1968, it would be $10.40 an hour today.