Vice President Joe Biden urged Congress to raise the minimum wage in a speech at the White House on Tuesday.
This came on the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938,which set national standards for the workplace. These provisions included a federal minimum wage of 25 cents an hour,requiring overtime after 40 hours of work in a week and laws against child labor.
President Barack Obama proposed an increase from $7.25 an hour to to $9 in his 2012 State of the Union, and Democrats in the House and Senate later proposed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013,which would raise minimum wage to $10.10.
Since 1938,the minimum wage has been raised 22 times. Despite these increases,Biden said the wage is still not adjusted to match inflation. He is concerned that millions of Americans work 40 hours a week but still live below the poverty line.
“$14,500 a year for a 40 hour week,it’s not enough to make in today’s world. It’s not even enough to make it over the poverty level,” Biden said.
According to the Census Bureau,the 2012 poverty line for an individual under age 65 is $11,945,rising to $15,825 for a household with two people and one dependent child.
Those in opposition to raising the minimum wage say that small business owners do not have the resources to support a raise in the minimum wage.
Cynthia Magnuson,a spokeswoman for the National Federation of Independent Businesses,said that “minimum wage increases would really fall on the small business owners. They are incapable,particularly in this economy,of absorbing any additional costs like that.”
“If you can’t afford to keep the employees that you have,you’re certainly not going to hire another one,” Magnunson said. “You might have to lay off employees.”
Acting Department of Labor Secretary Seth Harris appeared on “The Diane Rehm Show” on Wednesday and said he is in full support of increasing the minimum wage. He referred to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and paid for by Small Business Majority,an advocacy group for small businesses.
“Two-thirds of small business owners actually support an increase in the minimum wage,” Harris said on the radio program. “They know it will put more money in the pockets of consumers. They will end up with that money. That money will be spent in their stores and they will be better off as well.”
Magnuson said that the NFIB has questioned this poll and its methodology. She said the researchers did not use a representative sample and did not specify the demographics of those surveyed.
Biden said the real value of the minimum wage is much less then it has been in the past,specifically at its peak in 1968. In 1968,minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. In 2013,that wage would have the same purchasing power as $10.71.
“That’s all they’re asking here,is ‘just pay me minimum wage of what you paid folks in 1968,’ think in those terms. They’re not asking a whole heck of a lot,” Biden said.
Biden said an increase in the minimum wage could mean more than just a few more dollars in their pockets – it could mean peace of mind.
“They’ll spend the raise to try and make sure they’ve got enough food on the table. They’ll spend the raise to make sure that they can keep the heat up during the winter. They’ll spend the raise to make sure that they can make it.”
Biden closed his speech by saying workers should not have to depend on food stamps or other help.
“It’s about dignity,” Biden said. “That’s all this is about,a fighting chance.”
Reach Reporter Jacqueline DelPilar at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.