International Women’s Day: The Minimum Wage

Yesterday, in the context of a larger debate that shows what little regard conservatives in Congress have for struggling Americans, the Senate shot down two different proposals to increase the federal minimum wage. Since the minimum wage is not adjusted for inflation, its purchasing power has been starkly declining for decades now and its real value in 2004 — $4.82 — was the second lowest since 1955. The so-called wage floor has become a glass ceiling since the working poor have no chance of even seeing their way out of poverty.

Today, on International Women’s Day, it is only fitting to point out that minimum wage increases are very much a working woman’s issue. A 1999 report by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that the main beneficiaries from a minimum wage increase would be women since this group makes up a disproportionate majority of low-wage workers. As such, “a minimum wage increase would help to reduce the overall pay gap between women and men.” Furthermore, “forty percent of minimum wage workers are the sole breadwinners in their families” and women are overrepresented in this group as well.

Raising the minimum wage does not hurt businesses or minorities but keeping the wage stagnant breaks the backs of decent, hardworking Americans, a significant portion of whom are women. On this day that we set out to honor women, we need to make sure that we commit to letting them live lives of dignity.