WHEREAS, there are currently more than 4.4 million households in this country that can be classified as "working poor." A large percentage of these households are supported by individuals who work full-time at minimum wage jobs and yet remain unable to rise above the government-established poverty line. This issue is of central importance to the NAACP as a disproportionate number of minimum wage workers are racial arid ethnic minority Americans, and
WHEREAS, a minimum wage is established by the government as the lowest, or minimum amount that an employer may pay an employee living in a particular jurisdiction. A living wage is a term used by advocates to indicate a fair standard of financial self-sufficiency that should be expected by a person who works full time at a year-round job, an income 30% above federally established poverty guidelines is often considered a living wage because it is the level at which a person is determined to no longer be in need of government assistance to provide essentials like food and healthcare to themselves and their family. A living wage ordinance is a bill passed at the city level, like the one passed recently in Chicago, which usually applies only to workers in particular industries, and
WHEREAS, the federal minimum wage is currently set at $5.15 an hour, but 24 states have passed legislation to raise wages above the federal minimum. Washington State has the highest state minimum wage at $7.63. Dozens of cities have also Implemented increases in the minimum wage which are often specific to particular industries (such as the recent living wage ordinance in Chicago which applies only to big-box retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart), and
WHEREAS, Princeton economists David Card and Alan Krueger conducted a study on minimum wage increases in the fast-food industry in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and found that an increase in minimum wage did not negatively impact fast-food employment in these states. This research is widely cited by the Economic Poly Institute and other credible Think Tanks to support the notion that increases in minimum wage do not cause significant job loss or reduction of work hours for existing employees. Other researchers have found that companies paid for increases in wages through increased efficiency, reduction in spending for training and recruiting efforts, and some loss of company profit. However, it is possible to find supporters on both sides of this issue; and
WHEREAS, the federal minimum wage has held steady for a decade while the cost of living has increased. This means that the buying power of minimum wage workers has decreased dramatically in that time and the number of full-time workers living in poverty has increased. Campaigns to raise the minimum wage have also proven to be a catalyst for political activism in low-income communities, a study of living wage initiatives in Nevada and Florida by the community activist group ACORN, showed that living wage campaigns in those states resulted in the registration of record numbers of low-income voters and motivated many "low-propensity'' voters to make their voices heard at the polls; and
WHEREAS, at the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, a worker who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year earns $10,712, this is almost $2,000 below the 2003 poverty level for a family of 2 (a parent and a child).
- The Economic Policy Institute estimates that an additional 8.3 million workers would benefit indirectly from a minimum wage increase. This means that workers who currently earn close to $7.25 would likely see a pay increase if the federal minimum wage increased.
- An increase of $2.10 over two years adds $4,400 to the income of a full-time, year-round worker. Minimum wage workers need an aggressive approach to increasing their salaries.
- The number of full-time workers living in poverty has increased over the last decade as the minimum wage has held steady and the real value of the minimum wage has actually declined because of inflation. This shows an increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, which is unacceptable in a country with the democratic ideals of the United States.
- Research indicates that raising the minimum wage has not had a negative impact on jobs, employment, or inflation. Rather, since the last increase in the minimum wage in 1996 and 1997, the economy has continued to grow.
- The benefits of an increase in the minimum wage are limited if the increase is spread over too many years. The buying power of a wage increase decreases each year as the cost of living and expenses such as energy, housing, education, and food continue to climb.
- An increase in the minimum wage should not harm one of our nation's most vulnerable hard workers: those who depend on tips to survive. Minimum wage ballot initiatives and legislation should not count tips against the fair minimum wage for these jobs.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports the passage of legislation that increases the minimum wage from $5.15 to a minimum of $7.25 and ties to the Consumer Price Index in order to keep real wage in line with increases in the cost of living.
THEREFORE, BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP National Office in coordination with state and local units urge local, state, and federal elected representatives to sponsor minimum wage legislation that raises the minimum wage in their respective localities, work in coalition with labor unions, faith groups, and other community groups to support current initiatives at the state and local level and if there is not a current initiative to support, work to get a living wage initiative on the ballot.