George Miller helps pitch new minimum-wage bill

The federal minimum wage gradually would rise to $10.10 per hour from its current $7.25, and then see automatic annual increases linked to changes in cost of living, under a bill introduced today by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 also would gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers – now at $2.13 an hour – for the first time in more than 20 years, bringing it to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. The bill comes three weeks after President Obama highlighted increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address.

“Income inequality is one of the greatest threats to America’s long-term economic vitality, yet we are widening that inequality with wages that subject people to live in poverty,” Miller said in a news release. “Even during a so-called ‘golden age of corporate profits,’ millions of working families are falling behind because their paychecks aren’t keeping up. That’s immoral and that’s undermining our economy.”

Raising the minimum wage is especially important for working women, who make up a disproportionate share of minimum-wage workers today, Miller added. “As we mark Women’s History Month, we should ensure that working women and families don’t fall into poverty even though they work for a living. It’s time for them to get a raise. It’s time to grow our economy from the bottom up. It’s time for $10.10.”

The lawmakers were joined at today’s Capitol Hill news conference by Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce; Andy Shallal, owner of several Washington-area restaurants; Amie Crawford, a Chicago fast-food worker; and Gregory Reynoso, a New York pizza delivery driver, who discussed why raising the minimum wage is good for both the economy and for working families.

Congressional conservatives are sure to oppose the bill, contending it will be a job-killer.

“This ill-conceived and dangerous wage hike bill would be a disaster for the entry-level labor market,” Michael Saltsman, research director at the conservative Employment Policies Institute, said in a news release. “It would harm the employment prospects of thousands of entry-level and low-skill employees while failing to reduce poverty or boost the economy.”

But Miller and Harkin contend that’s not true, and note the minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968; if it had kept up with inflation since then, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today. The minimum wage today pays only $15,000 per year, which is $3,000 below the poverty level for a family of three; this bill would boost the minimum wage to $21,000, lifting families above the poverty line.

The lawmakers say more than 30 million American workers will get a raise under their bill; more than half of whom are women, and 88 percent are adults. And they say increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will increase the Gross Domestic Product by nearly $33 billion over three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities; that economic activity will generate 140,000 new jobs over those three years, they say.

Miller – the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce – has championed increases to the federal minimum wage for years. He was the House author of the 2007 bill that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 after 10 years without any increases, and he led more than 100 House Democrats in introducing a bill last summer that would’ve brought it to $9.80 per hour; that 2012 bill was never heard in committee.

Harkin chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, And Pensions Committee.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Miller is so full of dimmiecrat ****.

    Let’s just raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour and watch the economy boom!

  • GV Haste

    Elwood, you fail to understand that the minimum wage in the USA is simply rotten compared to many other industrialized nations.

    Australia’s minimum wage is $15.96 and the US dollar and Australian dollar are about equal.

    Australia’s economy is doing well.
    In 1968 I worked for minimum wage of $1.60 selling hot dogs and such at the zoo.

    That wage adjusted for inflation is $10.42 in 2012.

    The difference back in 1968 is we didn’t have tons of cheap unauthorized labor beating down the wages.
    Teenagers were able to get jobs now being done by adults.

  • BGR

    It’s disingenuous for Miller et al to frame the argument for raising minimum wage as a way to keep up with inflation when politicians like Miller and his ilk from both parties are the ones who have debauched the currency and continue to do so ad infinitum with QE3++ and trillion dollar deficits. Ironically, the minimum wage debate is actually the best proof of how much harm runaway deficits and borrowing has done.

  • Publius


    GV Haste, you and Miller fail to understand basic economics. The minimum wage act harms the unskilled worker, the poor and the youth of this country. Miller is a lifetime political hack with no common real world experience, this policy will only do harm. Well meaning policies like this one have unintended negative consequences.

    Miller is using a false narrative.These stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics do not support Millers claim. In 2010 only 20% of those that earn the federal minimum wage were the family or a spouse with a fulltime job. 30% were children, and 32% were youth workers enrolled in school. Only 4.7% match Millers mythical family of three living on minimum wage, the fact is that many minimum wage workers live in families with incomes well over the poverty line.

    I would like to delve into the economic reasons why this type of government act will do more harm than good, but it will take too long, and I fear that those that believe that, Government can fix wages and prices with no negative effect on the whole, will never understand and are lost causes.

  • JohnW


    There is no definitive consensus among economists about the effect of the minimum wage, one way or the other. Lots and lots of studies, but inconclusive. Personally, I think it is irrelevant whether those who do earn the minimum wage are family bread winners or students.

    Interesting that COSTCO has come out in support of the minimum wage. Henry Ford had his unilateral $5 per day minimum wage. Not because the free market demanded that as the cost of attracting and retaining qualified workers, but because he thought it would help sell more cars.

    Economics was my favorite subject in college, and I understand the theoretical arguments against the minimum wage. But I also understand that the real market economy does not work exactly according to charts and graphs in those textbooks.

  • BillE

    We may have lost the right to sell ourselves into slavery, although living in prostitution and drugs comes close, but we still have the right to sell ourselves cheaply. We do it all the time. In fact, bargaining is seen as distasteful in our society. You see the price tag, and, if you can’t afford it then tough luck. With virtually no unions nowadays, individuals have no bargaining power without possessing above average skills or knowledge that have commercial value. Of course, if you have those advantages, you certainly wouldn’t accept the minimum wage as payment.

    Look at how wonderfully the current minimum wage has transformed our economy. We have children with large amounts of disposable income, and they seem to be the only ones who do. Can you imagine that Apple would have been as successful as it has without that market? What we’ve created is an economic feedback loop. The vast majority of MW workers are children because adults can’t support themselves on it. Oddly, the same people who vow to protect the “right to work” with all of the assault weapons in their possession are the same who decry the focus of American culture as being so youth-centric and abandoning the family. You can’t have it both ways.

  • RR senile columnist

    You shall not press this crown of thorns upon the brow of labor; you will not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

  • JohnW

    @7 RR Senile Columnist

    It would have been interesting to see WJB and Ron Paul debate the gold standard.