[Our guest blogger, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), is the House Minority Whip.]
As Congress focuses on leaving town to enjoy the holidays, I stood in the cold before the Capitol Christmas Tree with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) today to call on Congress to act on the true meaning of Christmas – hope, generosity and good will toward others – and raise the minimum wage.
As a new report we released today with the Center for Economic and Policy Research details, families living on the minimum wage scrape and struggle each month to afford life’s most basic necessities. It is simply not possible for them to enjoy the holidays like the rest of us. No dozens of presents piled under the Christmas tree. No lavish meals on Christmas Eve and Day. It would take almost their entire December paycheck to afford the more than $700 that the average American spends celebrating Christmas.
Congress has the power to brighten the holiday for the almost 8 million Americans living on the minimum wage by increasing their paycheck.
Yet, this is the eighth year in a row that Congress has failed to enact even a small increase in the minimum wage. By freezing it at an inadequate $5.15 and ignoring the effects of inflation, Congress has essentially given a pay cut to these workers. In fact, if the minimum wage in 2005 was worth what it was worth in 1968 (its peak value), it would be $8.88 an hour.
How can the leadership in Congress leave Washington this week to enjoy a plentiful Christmas and a comfortable New Year knowing that their inaction has guaranteed another tough Christmas for millions of Americans?
This is just another stark example of how the Republican-controlled Congress does not have the right priorities for America. At the same time that they ignore the minimum wage and cut programs that invest in students and children, help our elderly and the poorest Americans, they vote for tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks that benefit the wealthy few. We can – and must – do better.
Representative Miller and Senator Kennedy have introduced a fair bill to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years. Providing a livable wage to hardworking American families is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is an issue of doing what is right and good.
Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to pass the Kennedy/Miller bill before Congress adjourns this holiday season. This is a small gift that we can and should give to honest, hardworking Americans.
- Steny Hoyer