Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

Columns

April 10, 2014

Lane Siekman: It's time to raise the minimum wage

On March 15, 2013, during consideration of a bill to consolidate job-training programs (H.R. 803), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) offered an amendment that, among other things, would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) voted against this amendment. In January 2014, Rep. Messer said that he was now open to considering a “two-tiered increase” in the nation’s minimum wage, but still no vote has been taken and Speaker Boehner has said he would rather commit suicide than vote for a “clean” increase. It’s very clear that that Mr. Messer and the Republican majority in the House of Representatives will not buck their corporate masters on this issue, but it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

In 2007, the federal minimum wage was increased by $2.10 to the current $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage hasn’t even come close to keeping up with inflation over the past 40 years. Sadly, 40% of Americans make less today than 1968′s minimum wage, as measured in today’s dollars and if the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $18.00 an hour today.

The United States had no minimum wage until 1938, when Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of FDR’s New Deal. Before then, employers could pay workers whatever they wanted, and they usually wanted to pay very little. Between 1912 and 1920, 13 states plus the District of Columbia passed minimum wage laws, only to have them struck down by the U. S. Supreme Court because they were “unfair” to workers as it kept them from making low-ball offers. In 1933, congress passed a law that mandated a .25 per hour minimum hourly wage, only to have it struck as well in 1935 (Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States).

In 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had to fight Republicans, conservative Democrats, the Supreme Court and corporate leaders to pass a lasting minimum wage law. In doing so, He warned “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, who has been turning his employees over to the Government relief rolls in order to preserve his company’s undistributed reserves, tell you – using his stockholders’ money to pay the postage for his personal opinions — tell you that a wage of $11.00 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.”(1938, Fireside Chat, the night before signing the Fair Labor Standards Act that instituted the federal minimum wage)

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