For the first time in a decade, the federal minimum wage went up on Tuesday. It's a good start, but much more needs to be done. "We are beginning to address the real problems that working Americans are facing," Senator Bernie Sanders said, "But, if we are serious about ‘family values' we must do much more - especially for our children. We must make sure that Head Start and other child-care programs are adequately funded, and that all families have the opportunity for a college education. We must also make certain that no one in America goes hungry," Senator Bernie Sanders said.
Since the last increase in the minimum wage in 1997, prices for basic needs -- from food to gasoline to child care -- have skyrocketed. Raising the minimum wage will help millions of Americans immediately earn an extra $1,500 per year and eventually an additional $4,400 per year when the full increase takes effect.
The three-step raise in the minimum wage bumped it up for now from $5.15 per hour to $5.85 per hour. It will go to $6.55 per hour in one year and $7.25 per hour two years from now. The decade since the last time the minimum wage went up was the longest period without an increase since the federal minimum wage was enacted in 1938.
Nearly 13 million workers, or 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, will directly or indirectly benefit by the time the minimum wage goes to $7.25 per hour, according to an Economic Policy Institute report. About 1.7 million people earned $5.15 or less per hour in 2006, according to government figures.
A person working 40 hours a week at the current minimum wage of $5.15 makes about $10,700 a year. A raise to $5.85 an hour would increase the pre-tax annual salary to $12,168. When the minimum goes up to $7.25 the yearly pay would top $15,000 a year.
Many states, including Vermont, have passed laws increasing the minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage. In Vermont, the minimum wage is now $7.53 an hour.