The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Minimum wage locks workers into outright poverty

Mar 21, 2005

Does any worker in the USA believe they can pay their bills with the same paycheck they were getting eight years ago? Yet that's exactly what almost three million workers, who earn the minimum wage in the richest country in the world, are forced to do. And, thanks to the wealthy gentlemen and 14 ladies, who make up the millionaires' club called the U.S. Senate, they will continue to do so.

The Senate just voted down a modest proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. It will remain at $5.15 an hour – where it has been since 1997.

A full-time worker (one out of four workers making minimum wage works full-time) earns $10,700 a year – way below the poverty level of $15,700 for a family of three.

During the congressional debate, one congressman opposed to a raise argued that young people who work at minimum wage use their money on iPods, not food and rent. (So iPods are only for middle class and rich kids?) What a myth that people at minimum wage work only for "pin money." In fact, some are heads of households; some help support older or infirm parents; some are people whose Social Security payment is so pitifully low they have to work – and at these abysmal wages. But young, middle-aged or old, whatever their circumstances, the average minimum wage worker provides a bit over half of the family's earnings. Keeping the minimum wage at $5.15 is a sure-ticket for families of the working poor to live in abject poverty.