Shuler: Woman Workers Benefit Most From Minimum Wage Hike

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Woman workers will be the biggest beneficiaries of a hike in the minimum wage, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler says.

In a special April 3 briefing, she pointed out that one of every four working women (24.3%) “would benefit from raising” the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.  And almost one of every five children live in a family with a minimum-wage earner, Shuler added.

The Senate plans to vote on the hike, which would raise the wage to $10.10 hourly by 2016, then index it to inflation, after it returns from its Passover-Easter recess.

Shuler said the AFL-CIO is highlighting the benefits of a minimum wage hike to women because analyses of the issue have downplayed that “and because the AFL-CIO is the largest women’s organization” in the U.S., with more than 6 million women.

Those women earn much more than the minimum wage, thanks to union contracts, but still have a stake in the minimum wage hike, Shuler said.  The increase “will help all women because a rising tide lifts all boats,” she explained.

And raising the minimum wage “is also crucial to helping to restore the link between productivity and wages,” she added.  That link has broken for all workers, men and women, union and non-union, for the last 40 years.  Restoring wages and the middle class nationwide is the AFL-CIO’s campaign theme this year.

“$10.10 is modest and paltry compared to gains in productivity,” added Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.  Those gains and lessened turnover and higher morale all offset business claims that they can’t afford to raise the wage.

“The minimum wage increase is targeted to folks who are living at the edge,” many of them single working mothers, added economist Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO’s deputy chief of staff.  “It doesn’t cost the taxpayers, employers can save money by increasing productivity, and it makes work pay.”

To put pressure on lawmakers to raise the wage, workers, including working women, are in “a grass-roots campaign and that’s what we specialize in,” Shuler said.  It features workers telling their stories of trying to survive on a minimum wage, or, in the case of workers who depend on tips, a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 hourly that hasn’t been raised since 1991.

Raising the minimum wage also is a political issue, especially for the GOP, Shuler pointed out.  Several Republicans have already started discussing compromises “because they’re desperate to neutralize it (the issue) before the 2014 election. That’s because workers vote and women vote.” she added.