Just hours before the President delivered his fifth State of the Union address, the White House revealed that President Obama will issue an executive order to increase the minimum wage for new federal contract workers.
The action will cover all workers employed under future government contracts, ensuring that none is paid less than $10.10 an hour. In a fact sheet announcing the action, the White House highlighted several occupations that will be helped by the move, including kitchen and laundry workers on military bases, as well as janitors at federal buildings and construction workers at government building sites.
Then, in his State of the Union address, President Obama called on business leaders across the country to raise minimum wages. “Give America a raise,” he said.
“After four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled,” President Obama said.
“The cold, hard fact is that, even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by — let alone get ahead. And too many still aren’t working at all.”
“Our job is to reverse these trends. It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything. But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”
The President also urged Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, stressing the benefit to women, who hold a majority of lower-wage jobs. Raising women’s pay is just one way to “do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode,” he said.
The White House believes the issue is one that may find bipartisan backing in an election year. Recent polls show most Americans favor raising the minimum wage — nearly three-quarters in a Pew Research poll conducted this month.
In fact, a group of leading economists signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders in support of raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
The letter, released by the Economic Policy Institute, endorses a Democratic proposal to raise the minimum wage by ninety-five cents a year over the next three years, and then to tie further increases to inflation. The plan, which is sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), received the support of President Obama in November.
The letter’s signees, including seven Nobel laureates, say the Miller-Harkin plan would increase the wages of close to 17 million low-wage workers.
“The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet,” the letter reads, “At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.”
In his State of the Union address, the President made the following statement, “Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success. But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”
Growing Up Granite
We do not know if Congress will increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We do know, however, that it would affect thousands of workers here in New Hampshire.
In Sunday’s Nashua Telegraph, David Brooks writes:
How much would it increase pay, and for how many? That depends on the raise, of course, but the rate that Obama suggested would affect tens of thousands of people in New Hampshire.
As of 2012, there were 64 labor categories in the state, roughly half the entire list of categories, in which the average entry-level wage was below $10.10 – often far below.
Surveys run by New Hampshire Employment Security, for example, say that people working in the category “cooks, fast food” had an average entry-level hourly wage in 2012 of $8.15; maids were at $8.16; actors at $8.27; parking lot attendants at $8.29; “farmworkers, farm and ranch hands” at $8.52; and veterinary assistants at $8.60.
These are average starting wages, or the mathematical mean; which means many workers in each category make less than this when they start.
A think tank called the Economic Policy Institute estimated in December that a $10.10 minimum wage would directly affect 12.8 percent of all workers in the country. In New Hampshire, it estimated that 77,000 people currently make less than that rate, although that figure is extrapolated from national data.
The EPI estimated that a $10.10 minimum wage would affect 9.7 percent of working men and 14.7 percent of working women, a reflection of the larger number of females in low-paying occupations such as cleaning.
Even if Congress does not act, there is legislation here in the Granite State to raise the minimum wage, HB 1403. The bill calls for an increase to the minimum wage in two steps ($8.25 an hour and $9.00 an hour) and then indexing it to the cost of living after that.
The increase to $8.25 would take place on January 1, 2015.
The increase to $9.00 would take place on January 1, 2016.
Every January 1 after that, a new minimum wage, reflecting an annual cost of living adjustment, would take effect. For instance, on January 1, 2017, a minimum wage of say $9.15 (depending on the rate of inflation) will take effect. On January 1, 2018, the minimum would go up to $9.35 (again depending on inflation, etc.) and so on…
New Hampshire’s minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. At $7.25 an hour – ($290.00 a week) – ($15,080.00 a year) – for a full-time employee, it leaves that worker with one child below the federal poverty level. And should s/he have more than 1 child, even deeper in poverty.
Raising the minimum wage would help to lift hard working Granite State families out of poverty. It would help stimulate our economy, and it would help close the gender wage gap. Not only that – nearly ¾ of Americans support raising the minimum wage, according to a recent poll.
And in a January 2014 Public Policy Polling survey of New Hampshire voters when asked about raising the minimum wage, this is how they responded:
Q25 Would you support or oppose raising the
minimum wage to $10 an hour?
Support ……………… .60%
Oppose ……………… .29%
Not sure …………….. .11%
This bill has a hearing next Tuesday, February 11th at 10:15 am in the House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee. Please take the time this week to send an e-mail or call the committee members and let them know that you support raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.
What’s Happening In New Hampshire
Tuesday, February 4, 1:45am – 2:45pm, SB203 Hearing – relative to permissible uses of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards *IMPORTANT*, SH 103 Finance