We know that our economy is strongest when we have a thriving middle class—where American families can work hard, pay their bills, and set something aside for the future. We know that unions are key to making sure workers and their rights are strengthened, protected, and valued. Labor unions help build a thriving middle class in this country. We know that labor unions are central to a strong middle class going forward. Unfortunately, in recent years, Republicans have made is a hobby to try to attack, weaken, and dismantle unions through legislative action in states and on the federal level, as well as in the Courts—we can’t let them succeed.
We believe that no one who works full-time should live in poverty. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening to too many workers around the country earning the minimum wage. Minimum wage workers have not seen a raise in more than seven years. Meanwhile, the price of groceries, utilities, gas and basic utilities never stopped rising under inflation. It was hard enough putting food on the table and making ends meet on $15,000 a year in 2009, and it’s virtually impossible today. For a family of three, this income level falls thousands of dollars below the poverty line.
It’s time for Congress to give America a raise. We’ve seen decades of falling wages that haven’t kept up with inflation. It’s harder and harder to get by. That’s why we need to raise the minimum wage to $15, because we know workers need more money in their pockets. In cities where this has already happened, we haven’t seen the sky fall—as much as Republicans and their corporate backers want you to believe that. Every worker needs $15 an hour—and a union.
That’s why the Democratic Party’s platform in 2016 calls for increasing the minimum wage to $15.
Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour.
History has shown that raising the minimum wage is one of the best ways to jumpstart the economy and create jobs, unlike proposals to minimize taxes for millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. By putting more money in the pockets of minimum wage workers, it makes them stronger consumers, which in turn leads to more hiring to meet the higher demand for goods and services.
Women are not only disproportionately affected by the minimum wage, making up two-thirds of minimum wage earners, but they still only make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, which quickly adds up over the course of a year and a lifetime. Our lawmakers must do everything they can to level the playing field for American workers, especially women. And President Obama wasted no time. The very first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which empowered women who have lost wages due to discrimination by extending the time limit to file a legal claim. Another top presidential priority has been the Paycheck Fairness Act which would close the loopholes that allow employers to shirk responsibility for pay discrimination. Unfortunately, Republicans have fought this legislation at every turn.
Since Republicans in Congress refuse to do anything, President Obama is doing everything in his power to help tackle income inequality. The Obama Administration recently finalized a rule through the Department of Labor that will extend overtime protections to 4.2 million American workers. Before the rule, millions of Americans who were working more than 40 hours a week were being denied overtime. This rule will expand the number of Americans who are automatically eligible for overtime, and will mean that most salaried workers earning less than approximately $47,500 will now be eligible for overtime pay. This will mean that Americans will see $12 billion more dollars over the next decade—that’s $12 billion more dollars that can be spent at local businesses in their communities, toward their mortgages, or on higher education.
It’s not just the right thing to do for the millions of folks out there whose salaries fall just above the threshold but are still expected to put in greater than 40 hours per week without additional compensation. It’s also good for the economy as a whole, because putting more money in the pockets of hard-working middle class families means more demand for goods and services from local businesses. Not surprisingly, Republicans are lining up to try to take this money back out of the pockets of American workers—they want to stop this rule, or slow it down. We won’t let them.
Republicans and their corporate backers who fought efforts to raise the minimum wage for low income workers have trashed this important step towards helping everyday Americans who work grueling hours without adequate compensation. These Republicans, pushing the same trickle-down theories that brought us the great recession, fight for CEO bonuses and tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires in Washington, but believe the workers behind the companies’ success don’t deserve honest pay for honest work.
We also need to guarantee family leave. Our country is the only developed nation on earth that does not guarantee paid leave of any kind. Surely we can do better. It will make workers more secure, and help businesses in the process. That’s why we need to guarantee up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave for workers taking care of a sick family member or child.
Americans agree with the President: that if you work hard you should be able to provide for yourself and your family. That’s why Democrats and this President have fought to create an economy that works for everyone and it’s why these efforts are critical to making sure millions of Americans are paid fairly for each and every long, hard day’s work. We need to pay workers what they deserve, we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, we need to make sure workers have a union, and we need to ensure our economy is helping everyone who wants it to achieve the American Dream.
Questions to Ask
- Equal pay for women is a family issue, as women make up almost half of our workforce. So why haven’t you fought to make sure women are paid fairly and equally?
- Do you think it’s right that Americans can work full time in this country and still live in poverty on the minimum wage? Do you think it’s fair that these workers haven’t seen a raise in seven years while the average CEO makes millions of dollars and has seen their incomes skyrocket?
- Why is it you think we should protect tax breaks to billionaires and companies that outsource jobs instead of giving millions of hard working people on the minimum wage a simple cost of living raise?
- Given the data that the states that raised their minimum wages in January 2014 have seen stronger job growth than those that didn’t, why do you still insist it’s a job killer when the facts don’t support your claim?
- Where do you stand on the Obama administration’s rule to lift the overtime threshold for salaried workers and give 4.2 million Americans who’ve been working 50, 60 or more hours a week without extra compensation the raise they deserve?