Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

A Raise for 30 Million Americans

While many people in the United States find themselves unemployed during these challenging economic times, there are many more who work full-time but still living in poverty. The federal hourly minimum wage is $7.25, but even working 40 hours a week this hourly wage cannot raise even a family of two above the poverty line. According to the Census Bureau, “[poverty thresholds] are intended for use as a statistical yardstick, not as a complete description of what people and families need to live.” Families need much more than a $7.25 hourly wage to make ends meet and are often forced to rely on government assistance in lieu of living wages.

Of those receiving public assistance, nearly 75% are working families. Recently, McDonalds explicitly recommended one of its struggling workers apply for Medicaid and SNAP since it was impossible to survive on only their wages. Worse yet, low-wage jobs have been growing at almost 3 times the rate of mid- or high-paying jobs in the “recovery” since the recession.

The minimum wage has been a core component of worker protections in the United States since its creation in 1938. But while the minimum wage has lost 30% of its purchasing power since 1968, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and the tipped minimum wage from $2.13 to $7.07 over the next three years. Additionally, it would index the minimum wage to inflation every year after, to ensure that its purchasing power is not weakened. This legislation would create $32 billion in economic growth and give over 30 million Americans a raise. As Jews, we are commanded to pursue economic justice and specifically, protect the worker. As it is written in the Torah, “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer… but you must pay him his wages on the same day, for he is needy and urgently depends on it” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

There are few other pieces of legislation with such a broad, positive economic impact. Please urge your Members of Congress to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.


Image Courtesy of the Center for American Progress

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Howie Levine

About Howie Levine

Howie Levine is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is originally from St. Paul, MN where he is a member of Mt. Zion Temple. He recently graduated from Tufts University.

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