Downright Criminal

To the Editor:

There’s a petition being signed by thousands of people to demand that the House and Senate allow an up or down vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and then index it to inflation. You can sign the petition on the website, as I just did.

Why? Poor and working class people desperately need this increase given the poor economy and cost of living today. It is currently a ridiculous $7.25. And even more shocking, the waiters and waitresses, those who depend on tips, make only $2.13 an hour. This is especially criminal for thousands working in Ocean County and on the Jersey Shore.

Even if the minimum wage were $10.10 today, those making minimum wage would not have the same buying power that a minimum wage worker had in the mid-1960s. To be on a par with a minimum wage worker in 1968 today, you would need to earn $10.55 an hour.

The majority of these workers are not teenagers working their first job or laborers at a brief first stop on their way up the economic ladder. Of the more than 4.4 million Americans currently earning federal minimum wage or less, more than half are adults and 284,000 of them are college graduates. Two-thirds are women and almost 60 percent of minimum wage women older than 25 are the sole breadwinner in their household. Two-thirds work for businesses that have at least 100 employees. So much for the argument that raising the minimum wage would devastate small businesses.

Right now single mothers trying to raise a child working a full-time, minimum wage job are still going to end up below the poverty line. That is not right. In fact, it is downright criminal when you consider that corporate profits, as a percentage of the economy today, are at record highs, while worker wages, as a percentage of the economy, are at record lows.

Those who are voting and speaking against a higher minimum wage say you can grow the economy from the top down. This continues to show itself to be folly. So do the predictions, echoing back to when the first federal minimum wage went into effect almost 75 years ago, that both businesses and workers will suffer dire consequences with an increased minimum wage. And yet, with each minimum wage increase, business profits keep going up, stock prices keep going up and CEOs keep getting outsized bonuses.

Raising the minimum wage is an essential step toward growing our economy the right way. It will give the economy a boost by putting money in the pockets of working people. They will spend it on clothing for their kids, repairs for their car and all the necessities they have put off for so long. Meanwhile, millions of other low-wage workers will also see their wages tick upward. All of that additional income improves business, sparking additional hiring.

This is the cycle our economy needs. And Congress can make it happen. But as the recent vote shows, House Republicans have formed a solid bloc of opposition to any minimum wage increase. That bloc, though, can be cracked through public pressure. Signing’s petition can show Congress that we demand a decent minimum wage.

Poor and middle-class folks throughout our state are still suffering from the additional debt and devastation caused by Sandy. An increase in the minimum wage will sure help ease the agonizing worries of everyday living.

Thousands have already signed. Let’s all sign the petition and show Congress that we demand action now.

Carole Marks

Barnegat Light

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