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July 23, 2012
Anniversary of last minimum wage increase raises issues

According to media reports, several organizations are calling for a “national day of action on the minimum wage” on Tuesday, July 24, to commemorate the third anniversary of the last raise to the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour.

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A press release from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) says “July 24th will mark 3 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage, which would be approximately $10.55 per hour if it had kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968.”

The release also says that despite perceptions, the majority of low-wage employees (66 percent) work for larger companies with more than 100 employees, often large national chains, rather than for small businesses.

An article in the McClatchy Newspapers says a minimum wage increase would affect 28 million workers, half working adults. And NELP reports that in 2011, “half of low-wage workers (52.1 percent) were employed in just five sectors: 1)Food Services, 2) Accommodation, 3) Retail, 4) Administrative Services, and 5) Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 7 out of the top 10 fastest-growing sectors over the next decade are in low-wage industries.”

Senator Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Representative George Miller (D-California), Senior Democrat of the House Education and Workforce Committee, are proposing raising the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.80 by 2014, adjust it each year to keep up with the rising cost of living (as 10 states already do), and raise the subminimum wage for tipped workers, according to NELP.

However, the McClatchy article reports that opponents caution that a raise would decrease job opportunities for teenagers and others trying to enter the job market and say employers would cut hiring to make up for increases in pay to current workers.

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