On Labor Day 1978, I started my first minimum wage job, making $2.65 an hour at the local supermarket stocking shelves and bagging groceries, and driving a battered Buick Skylark to work after school that fall with Darkness on the Edge of Town in permanent residence on the 8-track. That $2.65 is worth roughly $9.31 today, if calculated against inflation – or more than two dollars above the Federally-mandated $7.25 minimum wage.
The last time the Federal minimum wage rose was in 2009, in the teeth of the recession, when it went to its current level and the Economic Policy Institute estimated that increase put an additional $5.5 billion into the economy (mainly because those earning minimum wage tend to spend almost every penny). Some states mandate higher minimum pay: Washington is the highest, at $9.04.
A campaign to raise the Federal minimum wage to $9.80 and tie further increases permanently to inflation supports recent legislation working its way through Congress ... . And while the right-wing U.S. Chamber of Commerce called it “a typical election-year ploy,” some business groups support a rise in the minimum wage.
“The biggest problem Main Street businesses face is lack of customer demand,” says Holly Sklar, director of the Boston-based Business for Shared Prosperity, a network of progressive business owners and investors. “With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour – just $15,080 a year — workers now have less buying power than they did a half century ago in 1956, and far less than they had at the minimum wage’s $10.55 high point in 1968, adjusted for inflation. We can’t build a strong economy on downwardly mobile wages. It’s time to raise America by raising the minimum wage.”
For your Labor Day consideration, here are five campaigns to raise the U.S. minimum wage:
1. Online Organizing
RaisetheMinimumWage.com is a well-considered and informative online campaign to support an increase, created by the National Employment Law Project with support from state-level and national wage increase advocates.
2. The Sisters Lead
NETWORK, the national Catholic justice and peace activism organization led Catholic Sisters is leading a petition drive to support Congressional legislation to increase the minimum wage.
3. Coalition Advocacy
The Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign brings together more than 100 organized labor, faith-based, and advocacy organizations to support an in the Federal minimum wage.
4. Support from Business
Business for Shared Prosperity, a membership network of business owners and investors, launched its Business For A Fair Minimum Wage campaign to counter the common view that the private sector universally opposes increasing the hourly wage floor.
5. Living Wage NYC
A strong example of a locally-based campaign to increase wages at the low end of the economic scale, this coalition recently helped to override a mayoral veto on legislation requiring a $10 floor to wages on major new developments in the city.
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© 2012 Forbes