Time for a hike in the minimum wage

January 18, 2004|by Ty Unglebower

To the editor:

What exactly is the time and sweat and blood of the lower-income American physical laborer worth? According to our government, at this time it is worth at the very least, $5.15 an hour. But this is a slap in the face to anyone who makes that wage. (And millions of people do.)

It is simply not enough to cover basic needs such as medicine, utilities, rent or mortgage, vehicle insurance, payroll and other non-income taxes and a variety of other things. This is to say nothing of spending on such things as modest recreation, the all-too-occasional vacation and new clothing and food.

Maintaining all of these things, if you ask just about anyone who has to make such a wage, is difficult enough on one's own. I do not even mention those who make such a wage and have other people to support.


Do Americans in the lowest income levels really desire to soak the rich? To be given free handouts by the government, in exchange for no work done? Topple capitalism and free enterprise?

I can say earnestly from my heart that I have been around such low-wage earners (and have myself been such a low-wage earner for most of my life), and none of them advocate any of those things. They simply want to be able to show up for work, work hard and have that hard work rewarded with nothing more than the ability to live comfortably and safely.

But it simply can no longer be done by most people at $5.15 an hour, and something should be done about it.

Pursuant to that, if nominated on March 2, and subsequently elected to Congress in November, I would introduce legislation that would raise the current minimum wage, incrementally, to $6.50 an hour over the next five years. Some people I have spoken to call the number high. Others see it as too low. But nearly everyone I talk to seems to agree on one thing - $5.15 an hour is an insult to workers in this country.

The government has already proven it can fight for policies that take the economic situations of the rich into account. If I am elected, I will fight just as hard for low-income earners, and will begin that fight with introducing this raise. It may be hard at first for employers, but making this wage has been hard enough on their workers for long enough.

It is the "minimum" we can all do for them.

Ty Unglebower
Democratic candidate
Maryland's 6th District

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