News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) today voted to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. The amendment, offered by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), sought to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997. The measure failed 52-46, falling eight votes short of the 60 votes needed to pass.



"This is the longest time the nation has gone without raising the minimum wage since it was implemented in 1938," said Senator Murray. "The real value of the current minimum wage is already $4 below what it was in 1968. We are long past the time for the nation, as a whole, to raise the level of the federal minimum wage."



Since it was last raised the real value of the minimum wage has eroded by more than 20 percent. It is estimated that nearly 6.6 million Americans would directly benefit from a raise in the minimum wage, and that anther 8.3 million would benefit indirectly.



"By raising the minimum wage to $7.25, we can put an extra $4,400 a year into the pockets of workers, enabling them to better support their families," added Senator Murray. "This meager amount can make a world of difference to the poor among us."



The Full Text of Senator Murray's Statement Follows:



Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of Senator Kennedy’s amendment to increase the minimum wage. Not only is it the right thing to do for working families, but my state has shown that a living wage is compatible with a growing economy. The facts speak for themselves, and they speak loudly. Let’s just take three numbers: 9, 37, and 50.



Nine is the number of years since the minimum wage was last increased. This is the longest time the nation has gone without raising the minimum wage since it was implemented in 1938. The real value of the current minimum wage is already $4 below what it was in 1968.



Thirty-seven is the millions of Americans, 37 million, who are currently living in poverty, including 13 million children.



Fifty is the percent by which poverty has increased in the past generation, freezing out an ever larger portion of our working citizens from the advantages of a higher standard of living that most of us enjoy.



Mr. President, I believe that these numbers are a very strong signal that we are long past the time for the nation, as a whole, to raise the level of the federal minimum wage. I am proud that my home state of Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country, and it is indexed yearly to ensure that our workers are properly compensated for their hard work.



We in Washington State offer direct proof that a living minimum wage is compatible with a growing economy. May marked our 34th consecutive month of job growth. Our unemployment rate, even with the highest minimum wage in the country, is essentially at the national average. Our poverty rate stands at 11%, which is significantly below the national average of 12.5%. Our median household income stands at $48,000, much higher than the national average of $43,000. Good labor policies make for good labor productivity and a healthy state economy.



Ever since the Fair Minimum Wage Act was passed in 1938, opponents have kept raising the same baseless arguments. Even 68 years ago, opponents tried to paint a bleak picture of disastrous effects, like "factories closed," "industries forced into bankruptcy," and "people who will be thrown out of employment." It wasn't true then. It's not true today. The fact is that this wage provides more economic opportunities for people to support their families and contribute to their communities.



Opponents often cite a negative impact on jobs as their prime argument to oppose an increase in the minimum wage. This tired argument is simply not true. In fact, the four years following our last minimum wage increase marked the strongest economic growth in three decades, creating almost 12 million new jobs. In contrast, during the past four years we have only seen the creation of about 4.7 million new jobs.



As elected representatives, it is our job not only to represent the people in our states, but also to stand up for the millions of Americans whose voices cannot be heard. Just since 2000, the number of Americans living in poverty has increased by a stunning 5.4 million people. A minimum wage employee, working 52 weeks a year for 40 hours a week, makes almost $6,000 below the federal poverty guidelines for a family of three. At this rate, it will be a long time before we see significant progress against the scourge of poverty for America’s families.



By raising the minimum wage to $7.25, we can put an extra $4,400 a year into the pockets of these workers, enabling them to better support their families. This meager amount can make a world of difference to the poor among us. It could mean 19 months of utilities, 15 months of groceries, 8 months of rent or tuition for a community college degree. These are the basics, not the luxuries, of life today.



It is important to continually remind ourselves who is going to benefit from an increase. Here are some numbers to help set the record straight. This amendment will benefit nearly 15 million Americans, 80% of whom are adults, not teenagers trying to earn some extra spending money. In fact, more than one-third of these adults are the sole source of income for their families. And let’s not forget the 7 million children of those minimum wage workers who will benefit from this increase.



Mr. President, this Congress has substantially cut the tax rates for the wealthiest people in this country, saving them millions of dollars over the last five years. But so far, this Congress has been unwilling to spend a few cents more to help the poorest of our working citizens.



Mr. President, I have carefully considered all aspects of this amendment and have come to the conclusion that we have no acceptable alternative. I see the growth of the job market and the strong economy in my state. I see how we've worked in Washington State to ensure that low-wage workers share in this success. I know that this is what our nation needs. We should follow the lead of my state and the other 20 that have already increased their minimum wages and allow all Americans to share in these benefits.



Overall, this slight increase in the minimum wage would allow a significant portion of our nation, people who are working hard and playing by the rules, to have an increased opportunity to share in the American dream. They will be able to better support their families and will not have to make unacceptable decisions like whether to buy groceries or pay the rent.



If any of my colleagues oppose this amendment, I would like them to consider living on $10,700 a year, and not just living on it, but rather, trying to raise a family of 4 on that low income. That would mean having about $7 a day per person, not adding in all the bills. Now just think about how much you spent on your last meal. If we think of the debate that we are having in these terms, it is clear that raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.



I urge all of my colleagues to vote in favor of this amendment to increase the minimum wage. Let's show them that we've got our priorities straight, and let's finally give low income workers the raise that they are long overdue. It is the right thing to do for workers and the right thing to do for our economy.