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Letter to the Senate HELP Committee on the Minimum Wage

March 13, 2013

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the National Education Association’s more than three million members, we would like to offer the following views in connection with tomorrow’s hearing, “Keeping Up with a Changing Economy: Indexing the Minimum Wage.”

The federal minimum wage has failed to keep up with the rising cost of living. Over the last four decades, its value has fallen sharply. In 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to about $9.85 per hour in Nov. 2012 dollars—36 percent more than today’s federal minimum wage. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which translates to $15,080 for a full-time, year-round worker. The official poverty threshold is an income of $23,550 for a family of four. More than 16 million children under age 18—nearly 22 percent—live in poverty. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

NEA members know firsthand the impact of poverty on children’s ability to learn and succeed. Many of the education support professionals who help keep students safe and schools functioning are barely able to afford to live in the communities they serve. In many parts of the country, education support professionals work two or even three jobs to feed and shelter their families, or earn so little that they qualify for government assistance.

We are deeply concerned that too many of our nation’s working families simply cannot afford to provide the most basic necessities for their children. Indexing the minimum wage would help them cope with the rising cost of healthcare, prescription drugs, and other essential expenses. We thank you for exploring this vital issue.

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations