By a vote of 315 to 116, the House of Representatives, under the ambitious new leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), passed a bill today to increase the minimum wage. The legislation proposes to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour over two years.
“While this is a definite improvement over the current minimum wage, $15,000 a year still isn’t enough to support a family in this country. But it’s a step in the right direction and the Senate should follow suit.”
NOW applauds the tenacity of the new Congressional leadership and the inclusion of raising the national minimum as part of their “first 100 hours” goals. With this momentum, the Senate should work quickly to pass a clean minimum wage bill and send it to George W. Bush for signature.
“This is good news for women and families,” says NOW President Kim Gandy. “This is a bold statement to George Bush and a tribute to the voters who said they wanted to see a change. Gandy adds, “Women’s wages are the lowest of the low, and it is time our elected officials took notice. Raising the minimum wage is a matter of fairness.”
Consider these facts: Nearly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women. Overall, women are twice as likely as men to work at the minimum wage. Congress has not provided minimum wage earners with a raise in almost 10 years. However, in the last nine years, Congress has voted itself seven pay increases. In addition, the number of people in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since President Bush took office. Nearly 37 million people live in poverty, including 13 million children. Among full-time, year-round workers, poverty has doubled since the late 1970s – from about 1.3 million then to more than 2.6 million. An unacceptably low minimum wage is a key part of the problem.
There is still much work to do – the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation next week. We are confident and hopeful that our allies in the Senate will do the right thing for women and families.