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Letter to the Editor: Will Hakeem Jeffries respect his constituents on the minimum wage?

Hakim Jeffries, photo courtesy Erica Lee

For Brooklyn Daily Eagle

If the 1968 federal minimum wage grew with inflation, it would be $10.67 today. If it grew with worker productivity, it would be $22 today. If it grew with the incomes of the wealthiest one percent of Americans, it would be $33 today. But where does it stand 45 years later? A miserly $7.25. While Forbes 100 CEOs rake in more in an hour of work than the average low-wage worker does in a year, it is unacceptable for Congress to allow 30 million Americans to make less today than low-wage workers did 45 years ago in 1968.  
Fortunately, there is a bill in Congress to rectify this injustice.  Congressman Alan Grayson (FL) has introduced H.R. 1346, the “Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2013,” which would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour and index it to inflation.  Neither President Obama’s nor Rep. George Miller’s and Senator Harkin’s minimum wage proposals come close to catching up with 1968 by 2016; only Rep. Alan Grayson’s bill H.R. 1346 requires $10.50 per hour, 60 days after passage. This necessary increase would be a major, immediate economic stimulus and expand employment.
Recently, over 300 citizens who live in the 8th district of NY signed a petition summoning Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to hold a town hall meeting to discuss H.R. 1346.  Currently 34% of residents in East New York live under the poverty level. Rep. Jeffries is paid to meet with concerned citizens during the August recess, and he did not initially respond. On 8/17, the district resident Erica Lee who first submitted the petition went to his "outdoor office hours" in Coney Island to discuss in person.  Mr. Jeffries has not yet responded to a specific meeting about the minimum wage.  70% of Americans and 50% of Republicans support a raise. Without a higher minimum wage and indexing it to inflation, it becomes more likely that low-wage workers will fall further into poverty and be more reliant on government services like food stamps, Medicaid, welfare, and the earned income tax credit.
Despite pegging their own wages to inflation, Congress has failed to index the minimum wage to cost of living increases. As a result, low-wage workers have lost $15.3 billion in wages since the minimum wage’s peak in 1968.  For every day that Congress fails to raise the minimum wage back to 1968 levels and index it to inflation, each minimum wage worker loses another $26 in potential earnings.  In the time between when his constituents first contacted him and now, minimum wage workers in Rep. Jeffries’ district lost over $1.3 million in potential wages.  He currently supports a higher minimum wage, but has not yet co-sponsored H.R. 1346. 
Even if Rep. Jeffries does not support this bill, we hope he can at least respect his constituents by holding the town meeting to which his constituents summoned him.
Erica Lee is a social worker and concerned constituent of the 8th district. 
For more information about this letter and the Catching up to 1968 Act of 2013, visit www.timeforaraise.org
August 20, 2013 - 10:00am


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