Transcript: Sen. Tom Harkin’s press briefing remarks on the Fair Minimum Wage Act – March 3, 2014

Partial transcript of press conference remarks by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) on the introduction of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 to raise the federal hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016. The press conference was held on March 3, 2014:

…Today, I’m joined with Representative George Miller, who I might just add we’re classmates. We came to the House together in 1974, and we’re still here and still working together.

We’re here to introduce the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

As many of you are well aware, Representative Miller is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and Workforce, and I chair the HELP committee in the Senate.

A key part of this effort is building opportunities for workers earning at or near the minimum wage, who are not only struggling to reach the middle-class but are falling further and further behind each day.

These workers fill essential and often difficult jobs. They clean our offices, wait on us in restaurants and stores, and provide day care for our children or take care of our parents and our grandparents.

Yet despite all they do to keep our economy running, minimum wage workers earn just $7.25 an hour. That’s not enough to pay the bills, much less aspire to be in the middle-class.

Minimum wage workers are our friends and our neighbors. They’re working hard and playing by the rules, and they deserve a chance to build a better life for their families.

And I want to focus on this just for a moment – their families. Think about this: since 2002, the poverty rate among children in America has gone from 16% to almost 22%.

Over one in five kids in America live in poverty, and many of these are the children of people working everyday – going to work everyday – and making the minimum wage. So think about those families.

And that’s why today’s legislation is so important.

Our bill would gradually increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. That would give a raise to 30 million American workers. More than half of these are women. Nine out of 10 are adult workers, not teenagers.

Second, our bill would link future increases in the minimum wage to the cost of living so that people who are trying to get ahead don’t fall behind as the economy grows. I’d argue we should have done this a long time ago.

Since its peak in 1968, the minimum wage has lost 31% of its purchasing power. 31% lost.

Well, by indexing this, we make sure it never happens again.

Finally, our bill will – for the first time in more than 20 years – raise the minimum wage for workers who earn tips so they earn at least 70% of their regular minimum wage.

The harsh truth is that the minimum wage has become a poverty wage – a poverty wage – for tens of millions of workers and, again, their families. This shouldn’t happen in the richest nation on earth. No one who works hard for a living should have to live in poverty.

Raising the minimum wage is also about growing our own economy. With an increase in minimum wage, workers have more money to spend, and guess what – they spend it locally, not overseas.

This is just basic economics. Increase demand means increased economic activity. They will spend their money in their local economy, giving a boost to Main Street.

I was heartened that President Obama singled out the minimum wage in his State of the Union address. He said, “We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.”

So our bill would achieve that goal and more, setting a foundation for a strong middle-class for generations to come. Surely this is the minimum we owe to every American worker.


Learn More:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.