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Linda Meric Headshot

Fair Pay for Women Starts With a Fair Minimum Wage

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It's time for jobs that boost women, families and communities. Women are now the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households and more women are working today than ever before. So, when women do well, our economy does well.

Increasing the minimum wage is one step that would immediately put more money in the purses of working women, because women make up nearly two-thirds of all workers who are paid the minimum wage or less.

Minimum wage earners are not paid enough to be able to afford their families' basic needs. They earn so little that they qualify for, and are forced to rely on, food stamps and other public assistance to make ends meet. A woman supporting a family of three with a minimum wage job earns roughly $15,000 a year, $4,000 below the poverty line.

They include women like Crystal Whetstone from Ohio, who had to move in with her parents to make ends meet on a minimum wage salary, and Peggy Jackson in Atlanta, who earns only enough to cover rent and utilities. Without the ability to pay their bills, these women, and more like them, are trapped in a cycle of poverty. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would benefit 17 million women.

In this great country, we need to get our economy moving again. The only way to do that is to put more money in the pockets and pocketbooks of workers in low-wage jobs, so they can spend on essentials like food, utilities, gas and repairs -- purchases that keep local communities and businesses going. Boosting demand for goods and services will help stimulate the economy and help create jobs and opportunities for all Americans. The Economic Policy Institute says that raising the minimum wage would generate more than $32 billion in new economic activity, resulting in 140,000 new full-time jobs.

The Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737), sponsored by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, and the Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010) sponsored by California Congressman George Miller, would raise the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 level to $10.10 per hour in 95 cent increments over the next three years. They would also increase the tipped minimum wage from an unconscionable $2.13 per hour -- where it's been stuck for more than 20 years -- to 70 percent of the minimum wage. This is especially important for women, who comprise more than 65 percent of tipped workers. These bills would then index minimum wage for the future, to keep wages from losing value to inflation. Increasing and indexing the minimum wage are key steps toward fair pay for women.

To regain our prosperity, all of us can insist on increasing the minimum wage. We can support simple, common sense solutions like the Minimum Wage Fairness Act and the Fair Minimum Wage Act that are good for working families, our communities, local businesses and the economy.

Minimum wage workers cannot afford another year of low pay, and neither can our country. We need an economy that works for all of us. It is an essential component of fair pay for women.

About 9to5: With forty-one years' experience in winning justice for working women, 9to5 leads the way to create a powerful force for change on issues affecting low-wage women and their families.