“The fact that in America there are full-time working mothers and fathers, who must juggle two to three jobs, just to provide food and shelter for their children is unconscionable.”
“Simply put, it is not fair that working Americans and their families are being stripped of the American dream, because we refuse to pay them livable wages.”
“An increase in the minimum wage obviously won’t make anyone a millionaire, but it will ensure that each full-time working American receives livable wages.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor regarding the benefits of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. This week the Senate begins consideration of an increase in the federal minimum wage. Over the next few days, members of this body will come to the floor and make their case for, or against, an increase in the minimum wage The American people will be inundated with figures and facts regarding the economic impact of an increase to $10.10 per hour. As supporters of this legislation, Senate Democrats have ample evidence to back up our position that an increase in the federal minimum wage is good for Americans. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that increasing the minimum wage, and tying it to inflation would raise wages for 28 million American workers – that’s nearly one-tenth of all Americans. And, contrary to what Republicans would have you believe, these 28 million Americans aren’t just high school students looking to make a few bucks after school. That same analysis reported that the median age of minimum wage worker is 35-years, proving that these employees are grown men and women, many with families. And if we needed any more reason to pass this bill, the most recent polling data reveals that nearly three-quarters of Americans back an increase in the minimum wage.
The evidence supporting an increase in the federal minimum wage is ample and there for all to see. However, the real issue transcends political polls and studies. The heart of the minimum wage debate is not found in statistics, but rather a question for ourselves: what kind of country do we aspire to be? This nation is home to the greatest economy on Earth. Even as we continue to recover from the Great Recession, there is no question that we are the richest country on the planet. Can anyone in this chamber doubt that our economy has the capability of providing livable wages to American workers. The fact that in America there are full-time working mothers and fathers, who must juggle two to three jobs, just to provide food and shelter for their children is unconscionable. Now, before any sulking billionaires get upset and pen an op-ed labeling me a collectivist, let me be clear: this is a question of fairness. Do we believe it is fair that a fellow American who works full-time be paid less than a livable wage? Or do we value all American workers, and reward them with, at the very least, a baseline wage that enable them to provide for their families?
There was a recent story in Nevada about a young man named Dalven who works at McDonald’s. Dalven’s wages are so low that he has been forced to get another job just to stay afloat. How likely is he to be able to attend college classes while working two jobs? Or get specialized training outside of work? Just a few months ago, an incredibly successful businessman visited the Capitol and relayed his own personal story about minimum wage. Decades ago as a college student, Jim worked minimum wage jobs in order to put himself through college – he attended Harvard College. He was paid $2.00 per hour – the minimum wage at the time – and by working full-time over the course of a year he was able to pay Harvard’s tuition of $2,400. Jim even claims he had money left over after paying his college fees. Jim’s daughter is now preparing to enroll at Harvard College in the fall. If she were to be employed at today’s minimum wage, she’d need to work full time for 4 years to afford one year of tuition, room and board at Harvard. Dalven, the young man from McDonald’s, could never dream of putting himself through college on today’s minimum wage, let alone Harvard.
Simply put, it is not fair that working Americans and their families are being stripped of the American dream, because we refuse to pay them livable wages. That is why this legislation before us is so critical. An increase in the minimum wage obviously won’t make anyone a millionaire, but it will ensure that each full-time working American receives livable wages. It will give them a fighting chance to get ahead in this economy. Every hard-working American should have the opportunity to put a roof over their family’s heads and food on the table. And every full-time employee should have a fair shot at the American dream. I invite my Republican colleagues to consider what is fair for their constituents and work with us to increase the federal minimum wage. Join us in giving every American a fair shot a providing for their families.