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  • Minimum Wage Fairness Act—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2014-04-29

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    UDALL of New Mexico. Madam President, I rise to join my colleagues to urge support for increasing the Federal minimum wage.

    Today's minimum wage of $7.25 falls short and working families are falling behind. It hasn't kept up with the rising cost of everyday life. In fact, it is $2 less than it was in 1968, when adjusted for inflation. A full-time worker earning the minimum wage in 2014 makes less than someone did in 1968, almost half a century ago.

    Now, $7.25 may be just a number to some but not for so many families in my State struggling to get by. It means working two or three jobs just to put food on the table or fill the gas tank or buy clothes for their children and still not be able to climb out of poverty.

    Our Nation was founded on a basic premise that no matter who you are, if you work hard, you can get ahead. You can make a decent living. We haven't always kept that promise. We have the opportunity to do so this week for millions of hard-working men and women, young and old, who are paid the minimum wage.

    Working Americans are not moving forward. They are falling behind. Year after year, paycheck by paycheck, they work just as hard, but they earn less and less. This is a disturbing trend, not just for minimum wage workers but all across the board. Worker productivity is rising pretty dramatically--69 percent in the last 25 years--but real hourly wages are not keeping pace, up 26.5 [[Page S2437]] percent in the last 25 years. For the top 1 percent it couldn't be better. Their share of earned income is the highest it has been since 1929. But the average worker has to run faster and faster just to stay in place.

    This is not the promise we made. This is not the way to a better America for each generation, but this is the reality for too many workers in New Mexico and across the Nation. They are living it every day. They get up, they take care of their kids, and they go to work. They may run faster, they may work harder, but they cannot get ahead.

    A full-time minimum wage worker makes only $15,000 a year, well below the $23,550 poverty line for a family of four with two children. New Mexico has too many families in poverty, working hard, doing their best but falling further and further behind. This bill would give them a chance to build a better future for themselves and for their children.

    I have received many letters from my constituents because they know how important raising the minimum wage is. Here is a letter from Kathryn from Fruitland, NM. She says: ``Morally, raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do, because people working full time deserve to live decently.'' Barbara from Clovis, NM, told me: ``There are so many people who work for minimum wage and have a desperately hard time paying the bills.'' Liz from Albuquerque says: ``I hope you will do all in your power to assure that every working American will be assured of making a living wage, not just a `minimum' wage.'' Increasing the minimum wage helps families and helps the economy. It is one of the best things we can do to kick-start New Mexico's economy. It means workers in New Mexico would have over $200 million more to spend. It means boosting our State's GDP by $127 million, helping local businesses and generating 500 new jobs. It means moving forward, and it means that we honor an important idea that folks receive a fair day's pay for a hard day's work. That is the deal, and it is a big deal. Let's consider the alternative: When every year costs rise and the minimum wage stays the same, that is like a pay cut for families that can least afford it.

    The bill before us increases the minimum wage in three steps. Six months after the bill is signed, it raises the minimum wage by less than $1. A year later it bumps up the minimum wage by 95 cents, and two years after the first increase, it would finally reach $10.10, which is about where it would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. But this bill does more than just give hard workers today the chance to earn a decent wage. It also includes an important provision to allow the minimum wage to continue to keep up with every-day costs so that future generations who are working their way up can have a fair shot.

    Our country has debated raising the minimum wage several times in the past. Opponents always paint a very gloomy picture, but we have been able to get bipartisan agreement to do it. Afterwards, families and the economy have been better off, and the pessimistic predictions haven't come true. We need to build an economy that works for everyone. Most Americans believe it is time to increase the minimum wage because it is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do. It is time to keep our Nation's promise to reward hard work. It is time for all families to have a fair chance at the American dream.

    I urge my colleagues to support increasing the minimum wage. It is long overdue for millions of working families who continue to struggle, who continue to wait, and who have waited long enough.

    I yield the floor, Madam President.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.

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