Congressman Al Green Introduces Legislation to Increase the Minimum Wage

Jun 25, 2009 Issues: Labor

(Washington, DC)--Today, Congressman Al Green introduced legislation to index the minimum wage to the federal poverty threshold for a family of two.  He was joined by Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus Chair Barbara Lee, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chair Mike Honda, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nydia M. Velázquez in introducing the bill.  The Living American Wage (LAW) Act would index the minimum wage to 15 percent above the poverty line for a family of two for a full-time worker, or $8.20 per hour in today’s wages.  The minimum wage would be increased every four years to maintain a wage of at least 15 percent above the poverty threshold.

“While a full-time job should be a bridge out of poverty, this is not the case for minimum wage earners and their families.  A full-time worker earning the minimum wage in this country cannot raise a single child above the poverty threshold.  This is inexcusable and my legislation will address this problem,” Congressman Al Green said.

Currently, a full-time worker earning today’s minimum wage of $6.55 an hour earns just $13,624, which is an income substantially below the 2008 poverty threshold of $14,840 for a worker with one child.  This low minimum wage contributes to the fact that over 37 million Americans are living in poverty today.  The minimum wage will increase to $7.25 next month, but a full-time worker with a child making the new wage will make $15,080 a year, barely surpassing the poverty threshold. 

“Every American deserves the opportunity to earn a livable wage,” Congresswoman Lee said. “With the current economic downturn more and more Americans are falling below the poverty line, despite holding a full-time job. Communities of color have been disproportionately affected with nearly 24.5 percent of African Americans living below the poverty line. This is unacceptable. Congressman Al Green’s legislation is a positive step towards confronting poverty head on and providing Americans with a pathway out of poverty.”

“Under the Bush Administration, any momentum to boost the minimum wage was marginalized or weakened, making it ever more difficult to support a family on a single job.  As a result, millions of Americans are forced to work two and three jobs to make ends meet.  The improvements we are making to current law in the Living American Wage Act, which will increase the minimum wage, are critical to improving the lives of American workers and I am proud to support the legislation,” Congressman Honda said.

“Twenty percent of Hispanics in the United States live in poverty, despite the fact that many of these men and women work full-time jobs, or multiple jobs, to support their families.  This legislation would raise the minimum wage to a decent pay rate and ensure our hardest workers aren’t facing tough decisions about how to afford their basic needs,” Congresswoman Velázquez said.

“Congress took a great step forward for America’s workers in 2007 by increasing the minimum wage from the paltry sum of $5.15 per hour.  Yet, we still have further to go to ensure that America’s workers earn a living wage—enough to ensure that they can put a roof over their children’s heads and food on the kitchen table,” Congressman Al Green said.  “As the most prosperous nation in the world, even in this challenging economic time, we have the responsibility to ensure that none of our children go hungry.  I am proud to introduce this bill to help lift all working families out of the depths of poverty and hunger.”