Majority of Democratic Women in Congress Support Raising the Minimum Wage

Last Thursday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2012 in both the House (HR 6211) and Senate (S. 2252). Both bills would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25/hour to $9.80/hour over three years. Similarly, the tipped minimum wage would increase from its current rate of $2.13 per hour by $0.85 each year until it reaches 70% of the federal minimum wage. For the first time, both minimums will be indexed to keep pace with inflation. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009, and tipped workers have not seen an increase since 1991.

“Anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should not live in poverty. Yet 47 million Americans now qualify as the working poor. Raising the minimum wage helps families make ends meet,” Miller said in a statement accompanying the House bill. Rep. Miller and Harkin were joined by over 100 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and 15 Democratic co-sponsors in the Senate.

WOW made a special push to encourage women in Congress to co-sponsor the Fair Minimum Wage Act and provided them with a fact sheet outlining how the Act would affect women in reaching economic security. Women are disproportionately represented among minimum wage earners and tipped workers. Sixty-one percent of full-time workers are women, and 66% of tipped workers are women. As a result, over 60% of Democratic Congresswomen signed on as original co-sponsors to raising the minimum wage.

Women stand to benefit greatly from an increased minimum wage. Our fact sheet shows that a single mother of one child working two full-time minimum wage jobs at today’s current $7.25 per hour still cannot reach a level of economic security. This means that with two full-time jobs, she is still unable to meet all her basic expenses and set aside the minimum she needs to save for a family emergencies and an adequate retirement. The situation is even worse for female restaurant workers. One in ten restaurant workers are single mothers who generally lack paid sick days and often must choose between their children and their livelihood when they or their children are sick.

Senator Harkin’s proposal to increase the minimum wage had been included in his omnibus Rebuild America Act (S. 2252), which contained a number of job creation proposals. Now, as a stand-alone companion to Miller’s bill, it is more likely to receive attention and eventually come to a vote.

WOW is urging everyone around the country to continue asking candidates about their position on raising the minimum wage during election campaign forums.

For more on how raising the minimum wage will benefit women and single mothers, check out this podcast by MomsRising.

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