The “Great Recession” may have “technically” ended in June 2009, but millions of Americans are not only treading economic water but on the verge of drowning. One stark measure of this is the federal minimum wage. First set at 25 cents per hour in 1938, it crept up to $7.25 as of July 2009. Peaking in inflation-adjusted purchasing power at $8.67 in 1968, today’s minimum is more than a dollar lower in real terms than was 47 years ago and has lost over 8.1% due to inflation since 2009. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, if worker productivity were taken into account, the minimum should have been $21.72 an hour in 2012. An estimated 3.7 million workers earn $7.25 or less. 42% of all employed Americans earn $15 or less. To these must be added the 8 million officially unemployed and millions of others who are no longer even counted.
In recent years, workers have begun mobilizing to “Fight for $15,” an important beginning to labor’s fight back against the decades-long offensive of the bosses. But even $15 is a far cry from a true “living wage” in many parts of the country. A worker in New Jersey would have to work 94 hours a week at the state minimum wage of $8.38 to make ends meet. The estimated living wage for a single adult living there is $19.76. In Hawaii, a single adult would have to work 100.7 hours a week at the state minimum of $7.75, with the living wage estimated at $21.44. Compare this to the $10.5 million average annual pay for a Fortune 500 CEO in 2012. Divided simply into 52 weeks and 40-hours per week, this works out to more than $5,000 per hour—nearly 700 times more than a minimum wage earner!
Demanding a $25 minimum wage may seem “unrealistic” from the perspective of capitalism. But those of us who create the wealth of society cannot proceed from “what is possible” within the artificial limits of profit-driven capitalism, but from the needs of the majority, the wealth actually existing today, and the potential for multiplying that a thousand fold and more under socialism. We support all increases in the minimum wage and oppose all loopholes such as sub-minimum wages and exceptions, however, $25 per hour is the absolute minimum necessary to begin addressing poverty level wages. To achieve all this we need strong unions and a labor party with a revolutionary socialist program. To fight for these we need organization, resources, and numbers. Join us in the struggle for a $25 minimum wage and socialism—a truly democratic world based on plenty and prosperity for all!