KENNEDY FIGHTS WAR ON POVERTY AND OFFERS MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE INSTEAD OF HELPING KATRINA VICTIMS CONGRESS GIVES ITSELF A PAY RAISE
Washington, DC: Last night, Senator Edward M. Kennedy continued his fight on the war on poverty by offering an amendment H.R. 3058, the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill. Kennedy’s proposal takes into account that the current minimum wage is grossly inadequate to live on in this economy with nearly 37 million people live in poverty, including 13 million children. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated in stark terms that so many Americans live every day on the brink of economic disaster and for them any setback becomes a major obstacle to survival. An increase in the minimum wage would have directly benefited 491,000 workers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.“The images of Katrina were a shocking reminder that the American dream remains our of reach for millions of working Americans. It’s little wonder that so many in the Gulf Region were living in poverty when Katrina hit. These Americans work as hard as anyone else – often harder.
But the minimum wage that many receive cannot cover their bills or support their families.” Senator Kennedy said. “These Americans can’t afford the rising cost of higher education, so they don’t send their children to college. They can’t afford the rising cost of prescription drugs, so they don’t take the medicine they need, and often they don’t go to the doctor either. We know that America can do better, and as the Senate raises its own salary it should take the single most important step to combating poverty by raising the minimum wage.”
The minimum wage hasn’t been increased since 1997, yet during that time Americans increasingly feel the squeeze of the Bush economy. Americans are spending 74 percent more on gas than they did at the beginning of 2001. Heating oil prices are expected to rise by 56 percent this winter. Such rapid price increases will force consumers, especially the poor, to cut spending on clothing, health care and food just so they can get to work and keep warm this winter.
Kennedy’s proposal would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three steps; currently the minimum wage is $5.15. During the bankruptcy bill debate in March, 50 United State Senators expressed their support for Kennedy’s plan to provide long overdue help for the millions of Americans who are working in poverty. Five Republicans supported Kennedy’s measure, while only 38 senators voted for the competing proposal, offered by Senator Santorum.
The bill that Kennedy wants to amend includes an automatic Congressional pay raise. Congress has received seven pay increases in the last nine years, yet in those same nine years,the Republican leadership has not provided a single pay increase to the lowest paid workers. Below is Kennedy’s floor statement on the amendment as well as a fact sheet on the minimumwage.