June 25th marked the 75th anniversary of the federal minimum wage law in the United States, known as the Fair Labor Standards Act. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed this legislation, his vision was to ensure a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” and to “end starvation wages.”
Seventy five years later, there are 3.6 million Americans working for pay at or below the federal minimum wage. More extensively,thirty million low wage workers are making less today, adjusted for inflation, than they did 45 years ago in 1968. They are working for a minimum wage that does not even reach the federal poverty line for a family of three and they cannot afford basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, and health care.
Had the minimum wage simply kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would stand at $10.70 per hour today instead of the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. In that time, the minimum wage has lost nearly one-third of its value while the prices of everything from food to housing to health care have been increasing – often at rates higher than inflation. Each year that the federal minimum wage is not increased, you and Congress are effectively telling low-wage workers that they are not worth as much as they were the year before and each of the dollars they earn gets stretched even further due to the effects of inflation.
Here’s where you can make a decisive executive decision.
Just about a month ago, federally contracted low-wage workers walked off the job and participated in some of the larger strikes the nation’s capital has seen in recent years. Despite the fact that they work indirectly for the federal government, they are still being paid poverty wages – some even explained that they were being paid below the federal minimum wage, which invites your administration’s immediate investigation! This is disgraceful; the federal government should be providing a shining example of fair and just treatment of their contractors’ workers for other employers to follow. [...]
According to a recently released report from Demos, a public policy organization, the federal government indirectly employs the largest number of low-wage workers in the country. More even than Walmart and McDonald’s combined. The Washington Post reported that a report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), surveyed a sample of 567 federally contracted jobs. Seventy-four percent earned less than $10 per hour, 58 percent have no employment benefits, and 20 percent or more depend upon some form of public assistance.
In the absence of any serious movement in this disconnected Congress to increase the minimum wage, you have the potential to exert significant influence on the wages paid to millions of low-wage workers in this country. With a simple executive order, you can fix this shameful deprivation. I urge you to sign an executive order which mandates that federal contract workers be paid no less than $10.70 per hour, which would catch those workers back up with the inflation-adjusted minimum wage they would have been paid in 1968. Is this too much to ask of you?