Higher Wage Estimated to Increase GDP by Nearly $33 Billion and Generate 140,000 New Jobs Over Three Years
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today announced he is co-sponsoring the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, to raise the federal minimum wage. The proposal would restore the value of the minimum wage which is currently more than 25 percent lower than it was 45 years ago. This bill would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current $7.25—in three steps of 95 cents—then provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living. The bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which currently stands at just $2.13 an hour, for the first time in more than 20 years, to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
“There is no better program of any kind than a good, living-wage job as a foundation for a successful family,” Merkley said. “Unfortunately, while the stock market is hitting record highs, wages for working people have been stagnant. With this change those working tough jobs and trying not to fall behind will have some extra money in their pocket. That means they’ll have a little more to spend in local businesses. Raising the minimum wage is good for workers, good for our communities, and good for the economy. Let’s get it done.”
The unveiling of the bill, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, comes three weeks after President Obama highlighted increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address.
Oregon’s minimum wage, which currently sits at $8.95, is already indexed to changes in cost-of-living. In addition, Oregon’s minimum wage for tipped workers is the same as it is for other workers. Oregon had roughly 130,000 earners making minimum wage at the beginning of 2012.
Fast Facts on the Minimum Wage
· The minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968. If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today.
· More than 30 million American workers would get a raise under the bill. More than half—17 million—of them would be women. Eighty-eight percent of them would be adult workers. Eighteen million children (23% of American children) have parents who would get a raise.
· The minimum wage today pays only $15,000 per year, which is $3,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost the minimum wage to $21,000, lifting families above the poverty line.
· Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would increase GDP by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities. This economic activity would generate 140,000 new jobs over the course of three years.
Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley made a double-stop in Newport Saturday, first meeting with Occupy Newport members who presented Merkley with a copy of the recently voter-passed declaration that Lincoln County wants the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on “Citizens United” (corporations are people/money is free speech) overturned or amended out of the U.S. Constitution. Merkley said there is a nationwide movement against the controversial Court ruling and a number of approaches to the issue are being explored. He agreed that the ruling changed the nature of U.S. elections, especially in state houses and especially for U.S. Congress and Presidential races, adding that the change was not good because the voices of the partisan wealthy drowns out the voices of averages citizens in terms of campaign contributions.
Merkley then traveled to Oregon Coast Community College where a large crowd of citizens gathered to get an update from Senator Merkley on what many have called a “paralyzed Congress.”
Merkley said the paralysis is caused by an abuse of the Senate filibuster rule which can shut down any debate over any issue, no matter how important. From the time a legislator evokes a filibuster, it can take weeks for it to be stopped; but even then the issue is probably dead because if it’s reintroduced, some legislator will again evoke a fresh filibuster. Some in the crowd mentioned that the filibuster has been used by the Republicans hundreds of times over the past few years which has literally shut down the Congress because no important legislation can even be talked about if it’s filibustered. Merkley said it’s been very frustrating that the filibuster has been used in such a way, especially during the longest and most painful recession in the last 80 years. Merkley recently called for the end of the filibuster but Senate Majority Leader and Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada says he won’t propose the end of the filibuster. But one thing he will do is ensure that if it’s used, those who enact it will have to stay on the floor and talk about why they don’t like the bill they’re filibustering. No more filing the filibuster and then reading the weather forecast out loud or reciting poetry or flying back home.
Merkley heard from a single mother who is trying to earn a two year college science degree so she can have a career. She said she’s always broke, can’t afford child care, she tries to work but it’s hard to juggle everything and school work too. Merkley told her that the country needs to offer more help to struggling students who are truly tomorrow’s work force. He said other than lower interest rates on student loans, food stamps and work study, it’s pretty difficult. He lamented that the U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world whose last generation has more education than the current one.
On the issue of gun control, Merkley said that the latest school massacre at Sandy Hook shows that the country must do something about the proliferation of guns; especially those with big magazines and can kill a lot of people in a short amount of time. But he quickly added that anything the government does to regulate gun ownership must be consistent with the Second Amendment to the Constitution. He said President Obama must lead on this issue. Obama has mentioned that mental health background checks, in addition to criminal background checks, must be part of the solution which means cracking down on free wheeling gun shows that frequently don’t do any background checks because they legally don’t have to. If you have the money, you get the gun.
Merkley asked the crowd, “How many here favor restrictions on semi-automatic weapons?” All but three people in the room raised their hands.
Merkley got a few questions on climate change and Merkley said, “Climate change is a big deal and we’re seeing signs of it all over the world. He pointed out out that average world temperatures have been rising for the past 120 years, and that the North Pole ice sheets have receded dramatically. Merkley said when the ice melts, direct sunlight warms up the northern oceans which more powerfully drives wind and rain storms coming down and across the country. Tropical reefs are dying and the world’s oceans are becoming more acidic which is a threat to aquatic life.
Merkely said instead of contributing to global warming and climate change, the U.S. should be developing alternative energy sources that don’t rely on fossil fuels. In the meantime he suggested much greater use of natural gas which emits far lower quantities of hydrocarbons, including carbon dioxide.
On the issue of “dark money” in federal and state elections, Merkley said such 501c4 “civic organizations” have been spending millions on elections without having to disclose who’s behind it. Merkley said it strikes to the heart of our democracy in that huge piles of secret money are operating behind closed doors without having to reveal who the donors are.
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley will be holding a free wheeling Town Hall meeting with Central Coast residents Saturday, January 12th, 10am at Oregon Coast Community College.
Senator Merkley will be talking about what’s been going on in Washington D.C. including the 5 year stalled economy, declining wages, the cyclical nature of “fiscal cliffs,” sweeping new regulatory changes in the mortgage markets, America’s seemingly never-ending wars in the Middle East among others.
Senator Merkley’s Town Hall meeting at Oregon Coast Community College is open to the public and begins at 10am.
To find the college, turn east off of Highway 101 at SE 40th, and follow the road around to the college.
Oregon’s two U.S. Senators, citing increasingly bad relations with the Afghanistan government, its people and a string of deadly incidents that have produced assassinations of U.S. officials and Afghan civilians, are calling for a rapid withdrawal of all U.S. troops in that perennially war scarred country.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Though Oregon’s timber counties have among the highest unemployment rates in the Northwest, a recent report from the Department of Labor’s Inspector General revealed that millions of dollars in stimulus funds were used by contractors employing foreign workers to perform forest thinning work. Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew proposing changes to the H-2B foreign worker visa program that would help prevent similar incidents in the future.
In the letter, Senator Merkley called the use of funds “extremely disconcerting” and added, “The forestry work in question was completed in counties that have some of the highest unemployment rates in the Northwest. These areas include communities with a deep history of work in the timber economy and with a labor force highly qualified for this type of work. During the worst recession in generations, and within areas that have been hit harder by unemployment and underemployment than many other places in the country, it is simply not believable that there were not Oregonians ready and willing to do these jobs.”
The H-2B visa program allows employers to hire foreign workers if they can establish that no Americans are qualified or available for the work. However, the rules do not necessarily require that companies advertise open positions in the states where the work actually occurs. In this case, no Oregonians applied for the jobs because the employers only advertised the positions in California, Washington, and Wyoming.
Merkley’s proposed changes would bring more accountability to the process by requiring that the Director of each State Workforce Agency approve of each H-2B application and attest that the employer has complied with all program rules. Currently, all H-2B applications are certified by the Department of Labor out of its national processing office in Chicago. This structural change would ensure that State Workforce Agencies, who have extensive knowledge of local labor markets and regional industries, have a formal role in approving of all H-2B applications.
In addition, Senator Merkley proposed that the Department of Labor and the Office of Management and Budget reform the H-2B program by enhancing the requirements for domestic recruitment. The changes would expand the recruitment strategies of hiring firms to ensure that job listings were advertised in appropriate local venues, such as job fairs and reputable internet listings and radio stations, and would require the SWA to affirm that the employer had complied with all requirements and that it was reasonable to believe no qualified candidates were available locally.
MERKLEY TO HOLD TWITTER TOWN HALL ON JOBS AND THE ECONOMY
Tuesday, Senator Merkley to hold a discussion using social media on how to put Oregon and America back to work.
Tuesday, at 2:30pm Pacific Time, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley will hold a town hall on Twitter on what we can do to create jobs and help get America back to work.
Twitter users can tweet questions any time between now and tomorrow when the chat ends. To send a question, simply tweet a message of fewer than 140 characters that includes the hashtag #JeffJobsChat.
This Twitter town hall is part of Merkley’s ongoing efforts to make his work in Oregon and the Capitol accessible via new media. In addition to Twitter, Merkley also maintains an active facebook page, and regularly posts videos to YouTube. Merkley has held a town hall in every county this year.
What: A discussion on twitter on jobs and the economy. Use the hashtag #jeffjobschat to ask your question.
When: Tuesday, November 15, 2:30 pm PT