Workers demand a wage increase during a protest in Los Angeles on November 1, 2022

Workers demand a wage increase during a protest in Los Angeles on November 1, 2022.

(Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

'An Abomination': Today Marks 14 Years Since the Last Federal Minimum Wage Increase

"$7.25/hour, in 2023, is a poverty wage," said the AFL-CIO.

The federal minimum wage in the United States would be $42 an hour today if it rose at the same pace as Wall Street bonuses in recent decades.

But it hasn't.

Monday marks 14 years since the last federal minimum wage increase—the longest stretch without a boost since the late 1930s, when the national wage floor was first established.

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour, pay that's currently not livable in any state in the U.S.

While dozens of states, cities, and counties have raised their minimum wages since the Fight for $15 movement began in 2012, 20 states still have wage floors in line with the federal minimum, which is at its lowest value in nearly seven decades amid elevated inflation.

"The minimum wage was designed to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees," the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the U.S., said Monday. "$7.25/hour, in 2023, is a poverty wage."

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has estimated that as of January 2023, 21 million U.S. workers were still being paid less than $15 per hour. According to EPI, "a worker in one of the 20 states with a $7.25 minimum wage is 46% more likely to make less than $15 an hour than a worker in the other 30 states or District of Columbia with higher minimum wages."

"$7.25 was deplorably low back in 2009, but now it’s an abomination," said the Patriotic Millionaires, a progressive advocacy group. "If Congress wants to revive the American Dream for workers, they must start with the minimum wage."

But Congress has done little to push for a minimum wage increase since early 2021, when eight Senate Democrats joined Republicans in rejecting Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) attempt to attach a $15 minimum wage provision to a coronavirus relief package.

Last month, Sanders proposed legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour over a five-year period, but the bill's unlikely to move in the divided Congress.

In a column for The Guardian on Monday, Rev. William J. Barber and Rev. A. Kazimir Brown wrote that "instead of pushing culture wars and partisanship, lawmakers should focus on the 800 people dying each day from poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth."

"Our politicians have failed to act, and leaders who stand silent in the face of these injustices are guilty of policy murder," they continued. "Indeed, our demand for a living wage is the moral issue politicians should be focused on."

"Poor and low-wealth people make up nearly 40% of the electorate and have the ability to decide elections," Barber and Brown added. "We are calling for a Third Reconstruction to lift our nation's 140 million poor and low-wealth people from the bottom up. This includes raising the outdated minimum wage to a living wage as well as updating the also-obsolete official poverty measure to reflect what it takes to secure a decent standard of living today. America has gone 14 years without a raise. It's literally killing us. And it's time for it to change."

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