Opinion

Guest Column

Increasing the Minimum Wage

minimum wage by U.S. Senator Patty Murray
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the last minimum wage increase. On the eve of this anniversary, the Senate had an opportunity to increase the minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.15, and allow working Americans the opportunity to earn a living wage. Unfortunately, the Senate chose to turn its back on these working families.
   Like many people, I thought the profile of the average mimimum wage earner was someone like my daughter or one of her friends: a teenager taking food orders to earn some extra spending money. Sadly, seventy-three percent of those earning a minimum wage are over the age of twenty. Many are the sole earners trying to support a family.
   Particularly troubling is that fifty-eight percent of those struggling with a minimum wage are women, many of whom are single mothers. It is unacceptable that a person working full-time at minimum wage does not earn enough to bring a family of three above the poverty line.
   In Washington state, where the current minimum wage is $4.90 per hour, nearly 160,000 workers would directly benefit from an increased wage. A twenty five cent increase per hour can help a family buy groceries, pay the rent, heat, or medical expenses for the kids.
   At the same time we are trying to keep people employed and off federal support, we must send the message to American families that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide for basic food and housing.
   The current minimum wage is not a living wage. Try living on $10,000 over the next year. An increase will make an enormous difference in the lives of millions of working families who struggle every day just to keep up.
   Five years is a long time without a raise. Now is the time to adjust the wage inequality and demonstrate a true commitment to our working families and to our children.