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Barbara B.
Democrat CA

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  • Minimum Wage Fairness Act—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2014-04-29

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    BOXER. Madam President, it is my honor to rise today to support this very important bill, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act of 2014. I am very proud of my colleagues who have just spoken, and particularly, I want to say, of Senator Shaheen who, as I understand it, is the only woman here in the Senate who is both a former Governor and a Senator; is that correct? Mrs. SHAHEEN. It is.

    Mrs. BOXER. When Senator Shaheen was a Governor she stood up for the people, and as a Senator she certainly fights for her people.

    Part of this fight involves making sure that when you work hard and you work full time you don't have to live in poverty. It just isn't fair. Remember most of the people on the minimum wage are adults. They are not children. They are not teenagers. They are adults. So many of them are trying to raise their children in jobs at the minimum wage level, and you don't have to be a mathematician to know that the current minimum wage leaves you in poverty. So you have a full-time job, you work your heart out, and you wind up in poverty.

    I went back into my little memory books, and I found my son's first paycheck when he was working his way through school. He went to a supermarket to work as a checkout clerk. He came into a store called Lucky Stores. They were a union store, so he joined the union. Do you know what that young man made in those years? In 1986, 28 years ago--it is right here--it was $7.41 an hour. Imagine. So he was so proud he could work hard. When he came home, he was able to help pay for his tuition and his books.

    We are talking about a minimum wage that is $10.10 an hour. Here is this young man working as an entry level checkout clerk at a supermarket in 1986 making over $7 an hour. This minimum wage has got to be raised.

    We have the chart. If you put inflation on the minimum wage as it was in 1968--just inflation--the minimum wage would be $10.69 an hour. We are not even going that far. We are saying $10.10 an hour. So all we are suggesting is, make sure inflation is covered. That is all we are saying.

    [[Page S2438]] Increasing the minimum wage will give people a chance, a fair shot. Remember, most of the people on minimum wage are adults. If you stop someone on the street and ask who they think is on the minimum wage, a lot of folks guess it is teenagers. No. By the way, most of those happen to be women.

    I am deeply disappointed and distressed that the Republicans are opposing this measure. Why do Republicans want to deny hard-working Americans a raise? The country supports it overwhelmingly. I don't understand it because in 2007, the last time we raised the minimum wage, it was bipartisan. A huge majority of Senators then agreed that a full day's work deserved a fair paycheck. The minimum wage in 2007 was during George W. Bush's Presidency. Let me say that again. For the minimum wage in 2007, which was the last time we raised it, the increase passed 94 to 3, and George W. Bush signed it into law. What has changed in the Republicans' hearts? What has changed in the Republicans' minds? Are they turning against the people? If you ask them they will say that it is just not fair to small businesses. Well, more than 80 percent of small businesses pay their people more than the minimum wage. So come on. A majority of small businesses support what we are trying to do. So don't come on the floor and say you are opposing it because it is too much too soon. Wrong. It is even lower than the inflation rate, and secondly, regarding that small business doesn't want it, in fact, they do.

    Now before that was 1989. We raised the minimum wage then, and it was 89 to 8, and at that time it was George H. W. Bush. So wait a minute. What is going on here? I don't get this. It is not about who is in the White House; it is about the working people of this country. Where is the bipartisan spirit? It is gone, and America is paying a heavy price with the minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour and with inflation eating away every day at it.

    Let me read you just two or three stories about workers. Alicia McCrary, a single mom who testified in March before the Senate HELP Committee, struggles to support her sons with a minimum wage job in fast food. She has trouble getting them haircuts, shoes, clothing, and other items that kids need. She says: ``My boys ask: Why isn't there enough money? You work, and you work really hard, Mom.'' She said: ``I don't have a good answer other than I don't get paid enough.'' She is right. She doesn't get paid a fair minimum wage.

    NBC News ran a story of a man who works three jobs. Two of them are overnight--he works three jobs--two of them are overnight jobs for minimum wage. He said: I have four young children. They need a dad around. That is why I work a day job when they are in school and then go back to work when they go to bed. But it takes 3 jobs to make ends meet because of $7.25 an hour. I am 43 and have over 20 years' experience and make $7.25 an hour.

    That is wrong. These parents work so hard and their kids are growing up with so little, and their parents look in their children's eyes and they suffer because they want to do more for their children.

    Economists project that this bill--which I hope most or almost every Democrat will support--will raise the wages of 28 million people in America. All we need is a handful of Republicans to join with us and we will get it done. By the way, if it were a majority rule, we would get it done. They are filibustering it. Let's be clear. They not only oppose it; they are forcing us to get 60 votes.

    Twenty percent of the children in America are counting on this, 14 million children who would be lifted out of poverty if we pass the Harkin bill.

    Then we have tipped workers. If I asked anyone on the street how much tipped workers make, they would say minimum wage. Most people don't know what the Federal tipped minimum wage is. I know the Presiding Officer has worked on this. It is $2.13 an hour. Can my colleagues imagine? Again, $2.13 an hour is the tipped minimum wage.

    Many tipped workers live in poverty and instability. They don't know if they will make enough to cover the bills.

    We will hear that if we pay the full minimum wage, it will be too hard on the restaurant owners. In my State the tipped workers get the full minimum wage, and that wage is $8 an hour, going up to $10, in California. So the tipped workers get the minimum wage amount every hour. Guess what. Our restaurants are going gangbusters. And guess what else. When a person does well and has their minimum wage plus their tips, they get to go out once in a while to a restaurant. They can go down to the corner store and get something for their children.

    Sandra Samoa is a bartender in Chicago. She says if the bar is slow, she might take home just $40 after an 8-hour shift. She lives with her mom and her young son. This woman sleeps on the floor so her son can sleep in a bed. If we don't represent people such as these, who the heck do we represent--the Koch brothers? They are worth billions. This woman comes home Sundays with $40 in her pocket, she sleeps on the floor, and she says, ``My whole plan is to have a room for him one day.'' So, listen, if we are who we are supposed to be--the representatives of the people and working families--then we want to make sure we raise the minimum wage. It helps everybody, including those in business. That is why most small businesses support this.

    We know the great story of Henry Ford, who raised the day rate of his workers way back in the olden days, and people said: What are you doing? You are raising wages? You could get away with paying them-- whatever it was.

    He said: I am raising them because I want them to buy my car--the cars we make.

    What we are going to hear on this floor from our colleagues is that we are going too fast, we are raising this too much. I have already shown my colleagues that we are raising it less than inflation, so that is baloney on its face.

    No. 2, they say: Oh, it is going to hurt small business.

    I have already stated that 82 percent of small businesses already pay all of their employees more than the Federal minimum wage, and more than half of them support raising it to $10.10 because they know people will spend money on their products and in their stores.

    Then the next thing they are going to say is it is a job-loser. They are going to cite one study, which I call an outlier, from CBO. It said the minimum wage would reduce employment by three-tenths of 1 percent over the next 2 years. When I heard that, I thought, what is this about? I looked at some other studies. A study by three prominent labor economists from the University of Massachusetts, the University of North Carolina, and the University of California-Berkeley found that minimum wage increases absolutely do not cause job losses. The Economic Policy Institute found that the Harkin bill would increase employment by 84,000 jobs and add $22 billion to our economy over 2\1/2\ years. Let me repeat that. The Harkin bill would increase employment by 84,000 jobs and add $22 billion to our economy.

    But let's look at history. We have to really ask ourselves--these guys and gals who are saying don't raise the minimum wage because it will lose jobs--what if they said that going back through time and they prevailed? We would never have raised the minimum wage. I worked for the minimum wage a long time ago. At that time it was a dollar an hour, and I earned 50 cents an hour because I was a teenager. It was great then. I earned 50 cents an hour. I am looking at the young people here, and they are thinking, you must be really old. They would be right.

    My point is that the minimum wage was a buck an hour and it was raised many times. Since 1989 the minimum wage has been raised three times. It was raised many times before that. There have been 18 increases since 1956. So we can put that in our minds--18 increases in the minimum wage since 1956. Suppose the other side had taken that attitude: Don't raise it. Well, it would still be, I guess, a buck an hour, 50 cents if you are a kid. Today ``50 Cent'' is a singing group, right? We have raised the minimum wage over and over again. What has happened? The economy has added millions of jobs. Since 1956 it has added 80 million. Since 1956, we have raised the [[Page S2439]] minimum wage 18 times and we have created 80 million new jobs. So if anybody says this is a job-killer, I just say, read the history books.

    Americans support raising the minimum wage. I hope my colleagues are listening. The American people know $7.25 an hour is not enough. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 63 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Let me say that again. Sixty-three percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

    All we need is a handful of Republicans. If they are listening to me, I hope they heard some of my arguments. No. 1, it is good for business to raise the minimum wage because people have more to spend. No. 2, history has shown that we have raised the minimum wage over and over again and we have created 80 million jobs. No. 3, most of the people earning minimum wage are adults, and most of those are women, and people are trying to raise their families on the minimum wage.

    The last point is that we have always had strong bipartisan support. When George W. signed it into law, there was strong support from the Republicans. When his dad was in office, there was strong support. I can't believe the Republican Party has turned its back on working people, but if they have, we will find out tomorrow. The American people know what this is about.

    The American dream is within reach, but we have to have fairness out there. People need a fair shot. We shouldn't tell someone who is a dad that he has to work three jobs. That is wrong. We need to lift up these workers and not let them fall behind.

    When workers do better, families do better. When parents buy their kids enough to eat and shoes to wear, when they can go get a haircut at the local barber, when they can put gas in their car and fix up their house just a little, everybody does better. The community does better. Businesses do better. Families can walk tall when we reward hard work. When our workers earn a fair wage, our economy is stronger and our country is better. So let's give American working families a fair shot. We are not asking for the Moon and the Sun and the stars. All we want is just a little light at the end of the tunnel.

    Thank you.

    I note the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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