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Resolutions & Amendments

33rd International Convention - Honolulu, HI (1998)

Minimum Wage

Resolution No. 101
33rd International Convention
August 24-28, 1998
Honolulu, HI


Twelve million minimum wage workers continue to lose ground. In the past 30 years the stock market, adjusted for inflation, grew by 115 percent while the purchasing power of the minimum wage declined by 30 percent; and


If today’s minimum wage of $5.15 an hour had retained the purchasing power it had in 1968, it would now be $7.33 an hour, which translates into an additional $2.18 an hour, $87.20 a week, and $4,534 a year—$1,934 above the poverty line for a family of three; and


Every time the question of raising the minimum wage comes before Congress, its opponents claim that even a modest increase will cause widespread job loss. However, as hard as some opponents will try, the facts do not prove their case. In September 1996, one month before the minimum wage increased from $4.25 to $4.75, the national unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. In December 1997, two months after the second annual increase boosted the minimum wage to $5.15, the national unemployment rate was 4.2 percent, a full point lower. More specifically, retail trade jobs, which disproportionately employ low-wage workers, grew as fast as jobs overall (3.3 percent vs 3.2 percent); and


The vast majority of minimum wage workers are not teenagers earning pin money. Seventy-five percent are adults; 60 percent are women; 50 percent are working more than 35 hours a week; and 82 percent are working at least 20 hours. Raising a family on $10,712 a year—$2,600 below the poverty level for a family of three—working 40 hours a week at a minimum wage job is impossible; and


Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s the real value of the minimum wage was as much as a dollar above the current proposal. An increase to $6.15 would only partially return the minimum wage to its historical level. The proposed increase, adjusted for inflation in 1997 dollars, gets the minimum wage only back to where it was in the early 1980’s. Thus the minimum wage increases in the 1990’s—including the one currently under consideration—simply serve to restore some of the lost ground.


That AFSCME support an increase in the minimum wage. At a minimum, no one who works full time in America should have to live in poverty; and


That AFSCME urge the passage of H.R. 3510 and S. 1805, legislation to increase the minimum wage by one dollar in two annual increases. This is a modest increase that we can afford and that would benefit over ten percent of the workforce.