June 18, 2006


Caption: Seamus McGoogle laid down on the job today and swore to refrain from productive activity until Congress raises the minimum wage. This is no idle bluff: he's refrained from productive activity for the last five years.

Word has it that the Senate is poised to consider increasing the minimum wage in the days ahead as an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee recommended an increase as part of a larger bill, although the measure didn’t survive in the full House.

Here’s something to think about. The same Congress which has refused to pass an increase in the minimum wage for nine years just gave itself a raise of $3,300. This is the seventh straight year that they have voted themselves and across the board two percent cost of living raise. Base pay for a congressperson is $168,500.

Contrast this to the experience of minimum wage workers, who would earn $10,712 a year working 40 hour weeks without a break. Let’s picture a single mother of two in that situation. The hardest part to believe is the 40 hours part. Her earnings would be $5,888 less than the federal poverty level of $16,660 for a family of three. Put another way, she’d earn less than 2/3 of the poverty level.

The single mom would have to work around 32,718 ½ hours or 15.7 years at 40 hours per week to earn what the congressperson does. In fact, she’d have to work about 641 hours just to make as much as the Congressional cost of living increase.

If the congressperson had to work 40 hours per week to get the base salary, he or she would surpass mom in a little over three weeks.

Conditions are better for the anti-worker Congressperson too. Unlike Mom, the Congressperson in question gets regular salary increases, not to mention good health insurance and lots of vacations or recesses. By contrast, Mom probably does without health care and hasn’t seen a recess since elementary school.

El Cabrero is not suggesting that everyone in Congress should be paid a minimum wage (although some would still be ripping us off at that rate) but is rather stating the obvious: it’s way past time to raise the minimum wage.

For more information on the growing campaign to raise the minimum wage at the state and federal level, check the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign and download the useful report A Just Minimum Wage: Good for Workers, Business and Our Future by Holly Sklar and the Rev. Paul Sherry.


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