In 1998 Washington State voters passed Initiative 688 to raise the state minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70 in 1999 and then to $6.50 in 2000. We also became the first state in the nation to index future increases to inflation. This year the current minimum wage is $7.63.
On Jan.1, 2006 the Washington state minimum wage will increase another $.30/hr to $7.93. It will be the highest in the nation.
In 1998 the Federal minimum wage was $5.15/hr. Nine years have passed and it is still $5.15/hr.
Meanwhile members of Congress have voted several times to raise their salary for a “cost of living increase” during those same 9 years.. Their cost of living increase added $31,600 to their salary. This is equivalent to a $15/hr increase if one worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks.
The cost of living increase Congress voted for themselves is triple the salary per hour that a minimum wage workers makes. Congressional salary currently is $165,200 per year.
Democrats tried repeatedly to raise the minimum wage but were defeated by the Republican majority. It’s time now with the Democrats taking control of both the House and the Senate to raise the minimum wage. Its only fair.
The New York Times in an editorial Nov 15, 2006 asks “Will Fair Pay Have its Day?”The editorial notes that because the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation in the past that “the purchasing power of the wage has dropped to its lowest level since 1955“. It also notes that “come December, the minimum wage will have remained unchanged for the longest period since it was established in 1938.” The current inaction on raising the minimum wage coincides with Republican control of Congress.
But Democrats, out of the boot of Republican domination of Congress can do the right thing and make future increases in the minimum wage automatic every year to take inflation into account.
If Congress thinks it is necessary for them to keep up with the cost of living, then the same is even more so for someone making minimum wages.