Merkley Calls for National Minimum Wage Increase and for Congress to Tackle Income Inequality

Eugene, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley visited Kiva Grocery in Eugene today to talk about the growing income inequality in America and to call on Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 and then provide automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. 

“I live in the same working class neighborhood that I grew up in and families are struggling to stay afloat on jobs that pay minimum wage,” said Merkley. “We are seeing more and more of the living wage jobs that we lost during the Great Recession being replaced with lower wage jobs that only pay minimum wage. That means more families are struggling. As a nation, we’ve got to address this growing income inequality that our working and middle class families are facing, and that starts with raising the federal minimum wage.” 

Oregon’s minimum wage, which currently sits at $9.10, is already indexed to changes in cost-of-living. Oregon had roughly 130,000 earners making minimum wage at the beginning of 2012. 

“I support Sen Merkley’s efforts to raise the Federal Minimum Wage,” said George Brown, co-owner of the Kiva Grocery in downtown Eugene. “It’s one very important way to address the massive income disparities in our country and help millions of workers at the bottom end of the pay scale have better access to adequate housing, food and health care. Not only is it the right thing to do, but all of the increased income will be spent in the local economies and provide a big boost to all businesses.”

Fast Facts on the Minimum Wage

  • The minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968. If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today.
  • More than 30 million American workers would get a raise under the bill. More than half—17 million—of them would be women. The vast majority (88 percent) would be adult workers. Eighteen million children (23 percent of American children) have parents who would get a raise.
  • The federal minimum wage today pays only $15,000 per year, which is $3,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost the minimum wage to $21,000, lifting families above the poverty line.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million.