WASHINGTON - January 24 - NOW has worked since 1966 for economic justice, especially equal pay and fair wages for women, many of whom must work multiple jobs to support their children and families. Our members have lobbied hard, and we celebrated when 315 members of the House of Representatives recently voted to increase the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.
Today the U.S. Senate took up the House-passed bill -- a "clean" bill that was NOT held hostage by the business community, which is demanding almost $8 billion in tax giveaways. Fifty-four senators, including 5 Republicans, supported the straightforward House bill, and for that we salute them. Forty-three senators are intent on providing corporate welfare to their business cronies, and for that we will hold them accountable.
The minimum wage is a women's issue. Women are twice as likely as men to be working at minimum wage, and that rate is even higher for women of color. Today over nine million women are at the bottom of the wage ladder, paid less than $7.25 per hour.
NOW has been hearing from our members. One, who is the director of a shelter for homeless youth and young adults, wrote: "I see daily the effects of having the minimum wage so low that people cannot support themselves. Our shelter is full of young adults who work full time at minimum wage jobs, but cannot afford housing, food and other necessities. In addition, we feed many other youth who are minimum wage earners and earn only enough for rent, but can't afford food as well. Until the minimum wage is raised, there will continue to be increasing numbers of working homeless people."
These aren't statistics -- they are people. The bottom line is that those working hard at today's minimum wage (less than $11,000 a year for full-time work) still have no bottom line -- except poverty.
It's hard to imagine that a woman working full time, year round, at $5.15 per hour has to choose between paying the utility bill and taking her sick child to the doctor. And it's a national disgrace that Republican leaders would essentially say to this woman: "Your family's survival is less important to me than tax giveaways to wealthy people who see more money in a day than you are paid in a month, or even a year."
A NOW member in Dallas wrote about the small business she owned with her husband in a shopping mall. She said: "...my starting pay for new employees was $8.00 per hour. Paying more than my competitors ensured employee loyalty. It's hard to keep training new employees, so paying more at the start and offering incentives and bonuses for improvement was a good investment."
Paying a living wage is an investment in the future of the United States. Good for hardworking families, good for business, and good for the country.
NOW applauds the new Democratic leadership for their determination to pass a clean bill raising the minimum wage, and to make it one of the first acts of the 110th Congress. We look forward to many more advances for women and their families.