Washington, DC…Ladies and gentlemen, I’m Joe Biden. I’m filling in for President Obama, who is abroad. I want to talk to you today about the minimum wage and the overwhelming need to raise the minimum wage. There’s no reason in the world why an American working 40 hours a week has to live in poverty. But right now a worker earning the federal minimum wage makes about $14,500 a year. And you all know that’s incredibly hard for an individual to live on, let alone raise a family on.
But if we raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, that same worker will be making $20,200 a year—and with existing tax credits would earn enough to bring that family or a family of four out of poverty. But there’s a lot of good reasons why raising the minimum wage makes sense.
Not only would it put more hard-earned money into the pockets of 28 million Americans, moving millions of them out of poverty, it’s also good for business. And let me tell you why.
There’s clear data that shows fair wages generate loyalty of workers to their employers, which has the benefit of increasing productivity and leading to less turn over. It’s really good for the economy as a whole because raising the minimum wage would generate an additional $19 billion in additional income for people who need it the most.
The big difference between giving a raise in the minimum wage instead of a tax break to the very wealthy is the minimum wage worker will go out and spend every penny of it because they’re living on the edge. They’ll spend it in the local economy. They need it to pay their electric bill, put gas in their automobile, to buy fundamental necessities. And this generates economic growth in their communities.
And I’m not the only one who recognizes these benefits. Companies big and small recognize it as well. I was recently in Atlanta, Georgia, and met the owner of a small advertising company, a guy named Darien. He independently raised the wages of his workers to $10.10 an hour. But large companies, as well, Costco and the Gap—they’re choosing to pay their employees higher starting wages.
A growing list of governors are also raising wages in their states – the minimum wage. They join the President who raised the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors like the folks serving our troops meals on our bases. They’re all doing this for a simple reason. Raising the minimum wage will help hardworking people rise out of poverty.
It’s good for business. It’s helpful to the overall economy. And there’s one more important benefit. Right now women make up more than half of the workers who would benefit from increasing the minimum wage. Folks, a low minimum wage is one of the reasons why women in America make only 77 cents on a dollar that every man makes. But by raising the minimum wage, we can close that gap by 5 percent. And it matters. It matters to a lot of hardworking families, particularly moms raising families on the minimum wage.
And one more thing, folks—it’s what the American people want to do. Three out of four Americans support raising the minimum wage. They know this is the right and fair thing to do, and the good thing to do for the economy. So it’s time for Congress to get behind the minimum wage bill offered by Tom Harkin of Iowa and Congressman George Miller of California—the proposal that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
So ask your representatives who oppose raising the federal minimum wage—why do they oppose it? How can we look at the men and women providing basic services to us all, like cleaning our offices, caring for our children, serving in our restaurants and so many other areas—how can we say they don’t deserve enough pay to take them out of poverty?
The President and I think they deserve it. And we think a lot of you do too. So, folks, it’s time to act. It’s time to give America a raise.
Thanks for listening and have a great weekend. God bless you all and may God protect our troops.