In 1993, Rep. Bernie Sanders introduced the Living Wage Act (HR 692) to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.50 per hour. Over 44 House co-sponsors signed on in support of HR 692, despite the Clinton Administration’s decision to delay going forward on minimum wage legislation.
In a congressional press release, Sanders stated, “Five million American workers today earn the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour, and millions more earn less than $5.00 an hour. These workers have been waiting for years for the government to protect them, to force their employers to pay them a living wage. We cannot desert them. We must move forward on this life and death issue as soon as possible.”
Bernie also scheduled a series of hearings around Vermont to gather testimony and information from citizens about how a low minimum wage affects their lives and the Vermont economy.
Sanders also noted that the CEOs of major American corporations saw a 56% increase in their incomes last year. They now earn an average of $3.8 million. The CEOs in America now earn 15 7 times what a factory worker earns, the most significant gap in the industrial world.
“We must fully appreciate that the minimum wage today is not a minimum wage. It is a starvation wage. Working 40 hours a week, a minimum wage worker has an income 29% below the poverty level for a family of three. Many workers lack health insurance, paid vacation time, regular schedules, or other minimal benefits.”
“Whenever there is a discussion about raising the minimum wage, there are always those who say “we cannot afford it.” I find that rather extraordinary. Last year, Michael Eisner, the CEO of Walt Disney Co., made $197 million in salary and stock options, and Thomas Frist, the CEO of Hospital Corp. of America, made $127 million. The incomes of these two men alone· last year are equivalent to $1.25 per hour, 40 hours a week, for close to 125,000 minimum wage workers – taking them from $4.25 to $5.50 per hour. As a nation, we can “afford” to allow two multi millionaires to become much richer, but we cannot ‘afford’ to raise 125,000 workers to a minimal standard of living.”
Bernie continues to fight for increased wages for Americans to this day, as companies still pay employees starvation wages, despite record profits and massive executive salaries.