Time for National Change on Minimum Wage

Minimum wage’s clean sweep is a call to the new Congress to take serious action to raise wages nationally.

Voters in six states approved ballot measures on Tuesday that will boost their minimum wage above the federally mandated $5.15 an hour. Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio join the 23 other states that have already passed legislation increasing the minimum wage.

The Center for American Progress released a report last week showing that this legislation will benefit over one million people in Arizona alone. An estimated total of 345,000 workers—or 13 percent of Arizona’s workforce—will receive wage increases. Because these workers live, on average, in families with two other people, over one million people—or 17 percent of Arizona’s total population—will receive a direct benefit.

The Center for American Progress, in conjunction with Policy Matters Ohio, released a similar report in September showing that the wage increase passed in Ohio this week will immediately give much-needed assistance to 700,000 workers.

Americans have spoken. Every minimum wage initiative on the ballot this election passed. Polls from the Pew Research Center show 86 percent of Americans favoring raising the minimum wage, and 43 percent considering it a top priority. It is time for the newly-elected Congress to take serious action to raise the minimum wage.

The number of Americans living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since 2000. The federal minimum wage is currently at its lowest level in 50 years, adjusting for inflation. Someone who works full-time for 52 weeks at the $5.15 federal minimum currently earns $10,712 a year, an amount that is 32 percent below the 2005 federal poverty threshold for a family of three.

Nearly 15 million American workers and their families, 80 percent of whom are adult wage-earners, will benefit from a minimum wage increase. Almost 60 percent of these workers are women, 40 percent are people of color, and more than a third are sole breadwinners for their families.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi has promised that raising the federal minimum wage will be a top priority when the new Congress takes office in January. We must hold the federal government to this promise; Americans need a wage boost now.

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