An increased minimum wage was one of just 10 demands of the August 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. More than a half-century later, the national minimum wage continues to fall short of providing workers their full dignity and a “decent standard of living,” as called for at the march.
A new report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality explains why raising the hourly minimum wage – and the subminimum wage for tipped workers – is an important civil and human rights issue.
Last raised in 2009 to $7.25 an hour, the current hourly minimum wage is low by historical standards and inadequate for meeting the basic expenses faced by working families. Further, the subminimum wage that employers are required to pay tipped workers – or the “tipped minimum wage” – has been frozen at $2.13 an hour for nearly a quarter century. This has opened up the largest gap in history between the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage and – while the law requires that tips be sufficient to raise wages for tipped workers to the standard minimum wage – the reality often falls short of this goal, fueling markedly higher poverty and instability for these workers.
Proposals to raise the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage would raise wages for a large share of low-paid workers, including a disproportionate share of African Americans, Latinos, women, LGBT individuals, and other disadvantaged workers. These proposals would also help narrow the gender wage gap, especially for women of color.
States and localities across the country have acknowledged this problem and have begun to raise state and local minimum wages. But millions of other individuals, families, and communities are waiting for Congress to act.
Click here to listen to an MP3 of Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference and Indivar Dutta-Gupta of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality discussing the report’s findings.