Today in labor history: Minimum wage rises 70 cents, fight continues

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Today in 2009, the U.S. minimum wage rose 70 cents from $6.55 to $7.25. Low-wage workers and their families struggled mightily for that meager 70-cent increase, which meant an additional $28 a week, and the struggle to raise the minimum wage continues today. Workers in the fast food and retail industries are organizing and protesting for an increase in the minimum wage. Even fast food giant McDonald's proved with its ridiculous McBudget that a family cannot live on such low, low wages.

Workers are pushing both on the state and federal level for laws that would increase the minimum wage, make it easier for workers in low-wage industries to unionize and end the corporate welfare practices of Walmart and others that tell their "associates" how to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. Even tipped workers in the restaurant industry often times receive less than the minimum wage. The Congressional Progressive Caucus recently launched "Raise Up America" drive that pushes for federal legislation. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota recently brought it to the attention of President Barack Obama that workers hired by federal contractors receive poverty wages. The president, in his 2013 State of the Union speech, called for an increase of the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. $9.00 an hour.

"Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That's wrong," he said. "Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should live in poverty." He also proposed future automatic increases as the cost of living rises.

Contrary to corporate and right-wing propaganda, raising the federal minimum wage from its present $7.25 hourly to $9.80 over the next two years would create 100,000 new jobs, and at no cost to the federal government, the Economic Policy Institute calculates.

Photo: Protesters rally for a raise in the state's minimum wage on the Great Western Staircase at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Mike Groll/AP

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