U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor yesterday in support of raising the minimum wage. Senator Heinrich is a cosponsor of S. 1737, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, which would raise the hourly federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2015.
Senator Heinrich is a strong advocate for raising the national minimum wage. Last September, Heinrich and 14 other Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to sign an executive order setting the minimum wage for workers under new federal contract to be paid $10.10 an hour. The president signed the executive order in January. In 2005, then-Albuquerque City Councilman Heinrich successfully led the fight to increase the city minimum wage.
Below are Senator Heinrich’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I can still remember my first job like it was yesterday.
I worked as a busboy at a local family restaurant, during our small-town fair.
While the job only lasted a few days, I still remember how incredibly proud I was to have earned a few dollars myself.
The next year, that same family hired me to bus tables and wash dishes year-round at their restaurant.
I soon went from busing tables to bagging groceries and then to stocking shelves at the local grocery store.
Now, I grew up on a small farming and ranching operation. So whether it was drying dishes after dinner or helping my dad with the cattle, hard work was simply a requirement for every member of our family.
In addition to tending our cattle, my dad worked as a utility lineman. And my mother worked in a factory inspecting wheels on the assembly line.
Like many Americans, I learned the dignity of work long before I ever held a job.
I learned at home.
Mr. President, everyone deserves a fair shot at success in this country.
That is at the heart of why raising the minimum wage truly matters.
Minimum wage workers are not just teenagers.
They are single parents working two jobs to make ends meet.
They are women working a minimum-wage job at a movie theater for eight years waiting for a raise.
They are students working toward a degree that they hope will make all the difference in their lives.
They are mothers and fathers working 40 hours a week to support their families.
These are the Americans who work hard and earn the federal minimum wage and still find it difficult — some would say impossible — to get ahead.
At $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its value over the past four decades.
Groceries, housing, education, and energy costs all continue to rise, but the minimum wage simply has not kept pace.
This financial hardship is especially felt by women, who make up a majority of minimum-wage workers.
And stagnant wages hinder a family’s chance to work their way into the middle class.
For many…raising the minimum wage means the difference between poverty and dignity.
It can mean the difference between a trip to the food bank and a trip to the grocery store.
It means the difference between earning enough just to get by, and earning enough to think about the future.
That is why I am supporting the Minimum Wage Fairness Act to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015.
According to recent estimates, more than 100,000 New Mexicans would receive a direct raise from this legislation and another 43,000 would see their pay increase as overall wages improve, dramatically increasing economic opportunities for New Mexico families.
Raising the minimum wage is not just good for workers, it is good for business and for the economy at large.
A higher minimum wage helps reduce turnover, increases productivity and boosts consumer demand.
A higher minimum wage puts more money in the pockets of people who spend locally, and helps create a ladder of opportunity into the middle class.
Americans are no strangers to hard work, and embrace the belief that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to get ahead.
There are cities in New Mexico who are already taking the initiative and raising the minimum wage.
The City of Santa Fe’s minimum wage is $10.51 per hour.
As a city councilor I fought to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque, and today Albuquerque’s minimum wage is $1.25 higher than the current federal rate.
And in in Las Cruces, there is a growing grassroots effort to raise the city’s minimum wage.
I know this fight — we need to raise the national minimum wage so that all workers have a fair shot to get ahead.
Because, the truth is, the deck has been stacked against working families for some time now.
Too many working families are forced to make decisions that hurt the progress and strength of our nation.
Like taking on an extra shift instead of pursuing their education, or having to choose between paying the heating bill or the phone bill.
Raising the minimum wage is key to making the economic recovery work for all of us.
But raising the minimum wage alone is not enough to constitute a middle-class economic agenda.
We need to put preschool within the financial grasp of every working family and address the outrageous increase in college tuition and loan costs.
We must invest in vocational training and help build the modern American manufacturing economy of the 21st century.
And we must close the gender wage gap to ensure women are paid what they deserve.
Fair, livable wages together with educational opportunities for middle-class families is a formula for a real “opportunity agenda.”
It’s time to ensure that every New Mexican — every American — has a fair shot.
It’s time to raise the minimum wage.