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Raise the Minimum Wage

Currently, the average minimum wage worker makes about $15,080 per year if she or he is working fulltime (federal minimum wage has been $7.25/hour since 2009). For a family of two or more that is well below the federal poverty line. According to Catholic Social Teaching, a living wage is integral to our understanding of work. Wages must allow workers to provide for themselves and their families, and yet this is hardly possible if one is dependent on the current minimum wage.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 was introduced in both houses of Congress in March 2013 and was immediately referred to Committee, where it has remained ever since. If passed, it would provide America's minimum wage workers with a raise while boosting the consumer spending that fuels the economy. Over 30 million workers would receive a raise, and who these workers are may surprise you: 88% of minimum wage workers are adults over the age of 20, 56% of them are women, and 50% of them are people of color. Forty-three percent of minimum wage workers have at least some college education. More than 17 million children have a parent who would be affected by the legislation.

If the legislation is passed, it will raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10/ hour by the year 2015, in three steps of $0.95. Importantly, it would adjust the minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living through indexing, a process that 10 states are already using to maintain the buying power of the minimum wage. The Act would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to approximately 70% of the federal minimum wage.

On September 17, 2013, the Labor Department issued final rules that extended the federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation's home care workers, which covers hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers who have never been covered by the minimum wage before.

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), issued a statement when the legislation was introduced in Congress calling for an increase in the minimum wage: "It's clear what needs to be done. It's time to raise the federal minimum wage -- raise it over time to $10.10 an hour. Boost the guaranteed minimum wage rate for tipped workers, which has been stuck at $2.13 since 1991. And index the overall minimum wage to the cost of living." To learn more about the federal minimum wage, visit our partners at the National Employment Law Project.

While we wait for action at the federal level, many states and municipalities are already acting on this critical issue. Beginning January 1, 2014, an estimated 2.5 million workers