President Obama and Democrats have been calling on lawmakers to raise the minimum wage for American workers for years. Advocates have long said that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not a livable wage for a single person, let alone a family, to survive on. A new study has found that there is no state in the U.S. where a worker can survive on anything less than $14 an hour; and in some states, employees would have to work more than one hundred hours a week to live on the current minimum wage. Overall, Americans have to work 93.1 hours a week at the minimum wage to earn a living wage.
The Alliance for a Just Society, an economic justice advocacy group, released a report on Tuesday that found there are two states where workers would have to work more than 100 hours a week to be able to afford food, housing, child care and meager savings. In Hawaii, where the minimum wage is a measly $7.75 an hour, a person would have to work for 110.7 hours a week to survive. In Virginia, which has the pathetic $7.25 federal minimum age, workers have to spend 103.2 hours a week at their job. It’s not much better in five other states — Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — employees have to work more than ninety hours a week to make ends meet.
“Everywhere across the country needs an increase in the minimum wage,” said Allyson Fredericksen, a policy analyst at Alliance for a Just Society and the author of the report. “There’s nowhere that the minimum wage allows you to really make ends meet.”
The researchers found that there is no state in the U.S. where a single person can comfortably live for less than $14 an hour. For a family of four, that shoots up to $17.85 for both parents. As a matter of fact, in thirty-five states, the minimum wage must be raised to $15 an hour in order for it to be the livable wage it was meant to be.
Whenever advocates for a higher minimum wage ask for it, Republicans claim the wage was “never meant to be a livable wage.” This claim is unequivocally false, and their continued refusal to raise it nothing more than welfare for corporations, who shift the burden of paying their employees a reasonable wage on to the social safety net. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech in favor of instituting “living wages” for American workers:
“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By ‘business’ I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white-collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level — I mean the wages of decent living.”
Five years later, a federal minimum wage was passed under the Fair Labor Standards Act and for years it was raised to meet inflation and provide families a “living wage.” That was, until 1968 when a Republican Congress started putting corporate profits before American workers. Congress has only raised the minimum wage THREE times in the last THIRTY years; the last time was in 2009, where it was set at the current $7.25.
It is outrageous that this is even a fight that we have to engage in. The American people cannot survive on the current minimum wage, and there is no logical reason for the GOP to keep blocking an increase- especially since every single one of their excuses have been debunked. We need to elect representatives who are going to fight for American families and raise our wages enough so that we can rebuild our middle class and live in some kind of financial stability. It is inexcusable and shameful that we people have to work more than 100 hours a week to survive in one of the richest countries in the world.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.