WASHINGTON - January 8 - As Congress prepares to vote this week on the first minimum wage increase in over a decade, ACORN, the AFL-CIO and hundreds of community allies today released a National Sign On Letter calling for a “clean” – no strings attached - $2.10 increase to the federal minimum wage.
The letter addresses President Bush’s announcement late last month that he supports a minimum wage increase only if coupled with even more tax breaks for businesses.
“President Bush must listen more closely to the message sent loud and clear on election day: Stop pandering to corporate interests and get down to the business of taking care of working families,” said ACORN President Maude Hurd.
The House plans to vote Wednesday on a proposal that will raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour by 2009 in three steps. The Senate will take up the same proposal later this month, when a fight is expected over amendments granting tax breaks to businesses.
The increase would benefit an estimated 13 million workers. In recent years, Republicans have routinely attempted to block increases with poison pill amendments including tax breaks to business and rollbacks of worker protections.
“For the past 10 years, Republican leaders have held the minimum wage hostage,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “Corporations and wealthy Americans have gotten their rewards. Now it’s time to do the right thing for low-wage workers, with no payoffs to business.”
The letter released today is signed by more than 575 groups, including major national worker rights organizations as well as religious and civil rights groups. The signers urge prompt passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act and call on Senators to reject unnecessary amendments to Sen. Kennedy’s minimum wage bill that will further defer a fair increase for hard working Americans. In his speech last month, Bush said he supports giving the federal minimum wage a $2.10 increase only if paired with ``tax and regulatory relief'' to avoid “burdening” small businesses.
ACORN and its partners view business tax break amendments as unnecessary and a bad precedent for future increases to the minimum wage.
“We believe American workers deserve a clean minimum wage with no poison pills that take away with one hand what the other has given,” said ACORN’s Hurd. The Republican-led Congress last allowed an increase in the minimum wage in the summer of 1996. Since then, the real value of the minimum wage has dropped to its lowest level in 51 years.
Meanwhile, frustrated with federal inaction, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have acted to raise their minimums above the federal level. This fall, ACORN and the AFL-CIO worked together to pass a minimum wage increase in six states “to do what Congress has so far refused to do,” said Sweeney.