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Harkin Joins Congressman Miller, CEA Chair Furman to Call on Congress to Raise the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—At an event held today at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA joined Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Jason Furman, Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, to call on Congress to pass legislation Harkin and Miller have introduced to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.  Harkin is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, while Miller is the senior Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee.

“I believe that hardworking Americans and their families deserve a fair wage.  And I believe that the American people are calling on their elected leaders –clearly and unequivocally – to pass this important legislation,” Harkin said.  “I know I speak for all my colleagues here today when I say that we will do everything in our power, as soon as possible, to get hardworking Americans the raise they deserve.” 

The full text of Harkin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, is as follows.

“This is a great show of unity—with the House, Senate, and White House all here to talk about one of the most important priorities we can pursue to directly help American families and give a boost to our economy.

“There used to be a consensus around such priorities.  There used to be fairly universal agreement that the people who do hard work every day taking care of our children and elders, running the cash registers, stocking shelves at stores, delivering a meal or a cup of coffee—that these folks are the backbone of this country and the foundation of our economy.  We used to agree that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you should be able to earn enough to support your family and keep a roof over your head, put some money away for a rainy day, and have a secure retirement.

“But in recent years, it has been alarming to see how these fundamental principles and values are being attacked in our public discourse.  For many, the new attitude is ‘tough luck, you’re on your own.’  And if you struggle, even if you face insurmountable challenges, it’s probably your own fault. 

“It used to be that we only heard such harsh rhetoric from talk-radio partisans trying to attract ratings.  Sadly, now it has become part of our everyday discourse here in the United States Congress.  We hear how minimum wage workers don’t deserve a fair wage because they are not worth $10.10 an hour, or that raising the minimum wage won’t actually help lift people out of poverty.

“The predominant attitude seems to be that minimum wage workers should just ‘get a better job’ or ‘work harder.’  Tell that to the single mother working two jobs who’s trying to put food on the table and figure out how to keep her kids safe and cared for while she’s working double shifts. 

“The Republican Party may not understand the challenges that this single mother is facing, but the American people certainly do.  They see their friends and neighbors struggling and falling behind, and they know that our economy is not giving working families their fair share, which they have earned. 

“That’s why there is a groundswell of support – across the country, and across party lines – for a fair minimum wage.  People are speaking up, calling for better wages and working conditions.  And as this pressure continues, as it becomes clear that raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do – both for workers and for the economy – then I am confident that a strong majority in Congress will see this as something we must pass.

“As you know, I have introduced, along with my friend Congressman George Miller, legislation to raise the minimum wage.  Ours is a modest proposal to raise the minimum wage over three years from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, and to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in over two decades.  And critically, the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation after that, so that we will not need to have debates like this in the future, and families’ wellbeing is assured, not turned into a political football.

“When our bill is fully implemented, the minimum wage will no longer be a poverty wage.  It will lift hardworking families above the poverty line.  And through the indexing mechanism, it will help these families stay above the poverty line and build a better life. 

“In fact, a major economic study released just a few weeks ago quantifies the effect:  the careful analysis proves that raising the minimum wage does, in fact, reduce poverty significantly.  This new study projects that, under the Harkin/Miller bill, 4.6 million people would be lifted above poverty when the $10.10 wage is fully implemented, and 6.8 million people in the longer term, or the second year after implementation.

“But this is not just about statistics.  Real families will be helped in very real ways.  The additional money from a raise will make a real difference in working families’ lives.  It could pay for 7 months of groceries or 6 months of rent; it could buy an additional 1,600 gallons of gasoline a year.  Families may be able to put some funds away for a rainy day, or pay for that community college course that will help them get ahead.

“I believe that hardworking Americans and their families deserve a fair wage.  And I believe that the American people are calling on their elected leaders –clearly and unequivocally – to pass this important legislation.  I know I speak for all my colleagues here today when I say that we will do everything in our power, as soon as possible, to get hardworking Americans the raise they deserve.” 

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