07.28.06

Supporting a Fair and Livable Minimum Wage

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my disappointment that once again the Members of this House appear poised to let another opportunity pass us by that would have a meaningful impact in the lives of millions of American families. Today, we are voting on a bill that has been rushed to this House floor and purports to raise the Federal minimum wage. In reality, however, the bill before us seeks to muddy the waters about whether America's lowest paid workers deserve to make a living wage.

In stark contrast to the bill before us today, Mr. Miller, the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has introduced very simple legislation that would increase the Federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over the course of the next 2 years. This bill was introduced in May of 2005 and has yet to receive a hearing.

The hastily drafted bill before us today, however, was only introduced earlier this afternoon, and the House leadership has brought it to the floor for a vote.

This legislation adds unrelated and controversial provisions, that I'm sure some hope will end the debate and ensure that a meaningful increase in our minimum wage never takes place. We should instead, be voting today on a straightforward bill that simply raises the Federal minimum wage to a level that ensures that working families can emerge from the grasp of poverty.

Before the House adjourns for the August recess, I believe we owe the American people a simple up-or-down vote on whether or not working Americans deserve a decent living wage.

The current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is not a living wage. It is not a wage on which single individuals, working full time, can adequately support themselves, and it is most certainly not a wage on which a single mother or single father can raise a family.

Millions of hard-working Americans would directly benefit from a minimum wage increase. Some would argue that this would only benefit high school students and young adults who are being paid minimum wages on their first job at a fast food restaurant. In fact, more than 84 percent of workers who would directly benefit from a minimum wage increase are above the age of 20. In addition, nearly 60 percent of those individuals work full time, and 45 percent of them are married and/or have children.

They are the victims of our inaction, Mr. Speaker. In many cases, it is our children who will suffer. I am ashamed that nearly 36 million Americans live in poverty in our country, and that nearly 13 million of those who live below the poverty line are children. With a very simple vote today--on a very simple piece of legislation--we could dramatically increase the physical, mental, and financial wellbeing of countless American children. No one who works for a living should have to live in poverty, and the children of these working families must not be made to suffer for our collective lack of moral conviction.

I call on my friends on the other side of the aisle, and I ask them to partner with us to pass a meaningful increase in the Federal minimum wage. We must pass legislation that does not contain controversial provisions that divide us. Instead, we should speak with one voice, as one Congress, and tell working Americans that we value their work, that we understand their sacrifices, and that they deserve to make a living wage.