Harkin Calls For Increase In Minimum Wage; CREDO Action Launches Petition In Support

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James K. Gailbraith talks to the Real News about the minimum wage.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation that would raise the minimum wage by 35 percent, among other things, and would index it to rises in cost of living. CREDO Action launched a petition Friday in support of the proposal. Harkin's bill would raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 over two years.

The bill would also require employers to offer their workers paid sick days, make more white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay that they're currently exempted from, and give more workers the right to join a union.

In short, Harkin's bill, pitched as a prescription to rebuild the American middle class, hits all the right notes for worker advocates who say low- and middle-income earners are falling behind. The package was quickly praised by groups such as the AFL-CIO federation of labor unions; the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for low-wage workers; and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, a national group representing restaurant employees.

Increasing the minimum wage is vitally important for working families:

Despite the rising cost of living, the federal minimum wage hasn't budged since 2009, when it received the last in a series of increases passed under President George W. Bush. The minimum wage for servers has been frozen at $2.13 for two decades, and the restaurant industry has traditionally lobbied on both the federal and state levels to keep it as low as possible. Under the law, if a worker doesn't earn the normal minimum wage after tips, the employer must make up the difference.

CREDO further makes the case:

There is not a single state in America where a worker living on current federal minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom unit working a standard 40-hour work week. What's more, in 2011 a minimum-wage worker after working 40 hours per week for a full year would have just one hour's worth of wages left over to spend on rent and other basic services, after paying for family health-insurance coverage.

The AFL-CIO applauded Harkin's bill:

The Rebuild America Act addresses many unmet needs that have been ignored for far too long. The bill would revive the manufacturing sector so we can make things in America again, increase Social Security benefits, and restore the minimum wage’s purchasing power. Senator Harkin recognizes that we can’t achieve fairness if workers lose overtime protections to inflation, if we do not clamp down on rampant speculation on Wall Street, alleviate the cost of childcare for working families, and enact other overdue reforms.

Senator Harkin has always been a friend and champion of the middle class, and the Rebuild America Act is more proof that Senator Harkin is on the side of working families.

Sign the petition. As of Monday, more than 40,000 people had already signed the petition.

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