Seventy-five years ago today, with the American economy in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law. The landmark bill outlawed child labor, established the 40-hour work week, guaranteed overtime pay and instituted a national minimum wage. Opponents said it would stifle the economy and infringe on our freedoms, but the FLSA was an economic and moral priority for Roosevelt and his allies.
Today, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) are trying to protect the integrity of the FLSA by raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a $9 rate. Both figures would index the minimum wage to rise with inflation. The current figure is $7.25 and hasn’t budged since 2009.
“It is not a fair minimum wage but a poverty wage,” wrote Harkin in an op-ed in Politico. “It has nearly one-third less buying power than it did at its peak in 1968, and a single parent with two children — who works a full-time minimum wage job — falls $3,000 below the poverty line. It is simply wrong that in a nation as rich as ours, people who go to work every day are unable to put food on the table, pay the electricity bill or keep up with the rent.”
The article cites an Economic Policy Institute study that shows passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act would increase the gross domestic product by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities.
Harkin, who is Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, held a hearing to discuss the positive effects the minimum wage has had on society.
“As we celebrate 75 years of the minimum wage, we must also recognize that it is no longer achieving its potential impact in our economy or for America’s working families,” said Harkin. “Every American deserves the chance to build a better life for his or her family — and raising the minimum wage will provide that opportunity.”