Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Democrats React To Minimum Wage Increase

Despite massive, ongoing opposition from the Republican party, the Democratic Congress elected by the American people in November stepped up and, earlier this year, passed the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. The new wage rate took effect on Tuesday and Senate Democrats weighed in with their reactions.

Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

"In the ten years that we worked to get this bill passed, I met countless minimum wage workers. I heard their stories of struggle and survival... How they worked more than one job. How they saved every penny they could. How they had to make impossible choices every day about what food they could afford to buy and what bills they could afford pay.

"Today I’m thinking of each of them - the 13 million Americans who will see more money in their paychecks for the first time in a decade under this bill. They will have a few more dollars to spend on the essentials of life, or a few more hours to spend time with their families. Six million children will have better food, better health, and better opportunities for the future.

"Don’t let anyone tell you that what we do here in Washington doesn’t make a difference to real people. Six million children with a brighter future – that’s the difference having a Democratic Congress makes."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

“Seventy years after President Roosevelt made a commitment to our parents and grandparents through the New Deal, too many Americans are now getting a raw deal. Democrats, however, are delivering on our promises to work hard for working families, and the first minimum-wage increase in 10 years goes into effect today.

“Hourly wages and household incomes are down while the number of uninsured Americans and executive salaries are up. But today, hundreds of thousands of Americans will have a little more in their next paychecks to help them better afford basic necessities like food, clothing, day care, health care, education and retirement. While much more needs to be done for America’s workers, raising the minimum wage is an important first step toward once again giving working people a square deal and a fair shot at achieving the American Dream.”

Bob Casey (D-PA)

“I am proud to have been part of a new Congress that passed into law the first minimum wage increase in a decade. This increase was long overdue and will help millions of workers, especially the 60 percent of minimum wage workers who are women and those who are struggling to raise children. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, the old minimum wage of $5.15 an hour covered only 40 percent of the cost of raising a child.

“Enactment of the minimum wage increase is a first step in returning attention in Washington to helping working families instead of the focus in recent years on helping the special interests. I also hope that we can swiftly pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program bill to expand access to health care for more children.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY)

“Today, the federal minimum wage will increase for the first time in a decade. This is a real and momentous victory for millions of working families who are struggling to make ends meet. However, this must be only the first step toward lifting up working families who have been falling behind for too long. I am eager to work with my colleagues on new legislation that indexes the minimum wage, so that working families do not need to wait ten long years for another increase."

Chris Dodd (D-CT)

“While it took a ten-year battle in Congress, millions of hard-working men and women will finally get a raise today. Today’s increase is the first since 1997 — ten years in which the cost of living has steadily risen as the minimum wage has stagnated, leaving millions of Americans further and further behind. But today’s increase will make a real difference in their lives. This increase puts real dollars and cents in the hands of hardworking Americans. It was far too long in coming, but every American deserves a fair wage and a safe workplace.”

Barack Obama (D-IL)

“Today, America’s lowest paid workers will receive their first raise in ten years. This increase was long overdue. We stood up to corporate special interests that wanted to deny hard working Americans the basic dignity of a small increase in pay. Americans are rightly cynical about a Congress that fails to increase pay at the bottom of the wage ladder even as it raises its own pay and cuts taxes for the wealthy.

“I will work to make sure Washington represents the national interest instead of the special interests. Collective bargaining and the right to organize should be guaranteed for every working American. And we must tie future increases in the minimum wage to inflation so that it grows along with the costs those workers face. We need to make the minimum wage a living wage that helps American families not just survive, but succeed.”

Jim Webb (D-VA)

“Lower income workers are finally receiving the pay raise they deserve, and I’m proud to have supported it. By raising the minimum wage, we’ve taken an important step toward easing the burden facing American workers who are being squeezed by stagnant wages and a rising cost of living.”

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

"Today marks an important step forward in alleviating poverty. This two-year increase in the minimum wage will mean the difference between self-sufficiency and living below the poverty line for millions of American families who are struggling to make ends meet. It is an accomplishment for which the Democratic Congress can be very proud."

Tom Harkin (D-IA)

“While more needs to be done, raising the federal minimum wage is an important step toward economic security for many Americans. It is a down payment on a broader American agenda to help working families.

"Eighty percent of workers affected by the proposed increase are adults. Fifty-nine percent of workers who earn the minimum wage are women. The average minimum-wage worker earns home more than half of their family’s income.

“The needs and priorities of working families are being heard in Washington and I am pleased that we are delivering on our promises to Americans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass more legislation that will protect workers, expand access to healthcare and college, and bring economic prosperity to more families.”

John Kerry (D-MA)

“By raising our country’s minimum wage, we are helping to open the doors and expand the opportunities of millions of working Americans who’ve been struggling to make ends meet.

“When Democrats regained the majority last November, we promised to put working Americans first. Today is an answer to that promise. I commend Senator Kennedy and my colleagues for their dedication to this issue and I will continue to work to find other ways to assist the men and women who are working hard and trying to make better lives for themselves.”

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

"The minimum wage is about helping working families – it is fair, it is smart, and above all it is right. Our lowest paid workers have seen the purchasing power of their wages decline even as their health care, housing, education, and energy costs skyrocket, and it is long past time that we help them make ends meet. Today we can finally tell our workers that we stand up for the hardworking people of America.”

Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

"Americans are finally getting a raise today after years of being turned down by Congress. This is the least we can do to make sure Americans who are willing to put in a hard day’s work can sustain themselves and their families. For a decade, many of those who are working their hardest have been kept at the bottom of the ladder. Today, they are getting the chance that everyone in this country deserves – the opportunity to build a better life."