Happy Labor Day.
The Department of Labor explains that this day is "a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."
In name, at least, we exalt this day "the American worker" -- the hands-on, day to day people whose hard work makes is really what makes this country as productive and great as it is. Without those men and women taking care of the nuts and bolts and daily ins and outs of the industry, we would never be able to have what we do in this great country of ours.
In legislation signed by President Clinton in 1996, the federal minimum wage was raised to $5.15 per hour effective September 1, 1997. This minimum wage has not been raised since. (A current Department of Labor webpage still instructs that $5.15 is the minimum.) Each state is, of course, permitted to mandate still higher minimum wages in its borders. (For more information of workers' minimum wage issues, check this page.)
Meanwhile, CEOs of large corporations "routinely are paid 400 to 600 times more than the assembly line worker." The guy working his fingers to the bone to put together the products we use every day is earning up to 600 times less than the fat cat in a windowed office who does nothing more than make sure those assembly lines keep moving. Moreover, the average CEO earned 13% more in 2004 than in 2003, while the average nonsupervisory worker saw a pay increase of 2.2%.
Democrats have been trying for the past nine years to raise the minimum wage past $5.15, but haven't yet succeeded. (Efforts have failed eleven times to raise it to $7.25.)
Almost every year for the past 10 years, Congress gives itself a nice pay raise -- an increase of $31,600 since 1997. Congressional leaders currently earn close to $170,000 a year; minimum wage workers who only work one job make $10,700 per year. Yet Congress refuses to mandate pay increases for those among us who truly keep the cogs of this country turning. (In 2006, Democrats vowed that it would not permit Congress to raise its own pay until federal minimum wage was upped.)
Click here for some other tidbits regarding American minimum wages.
So, Happy Labor Day. More than a federal day off and the end of the summer beach season, we need to give our federal workers more income so the American dream doesn't have to involve overtime, second and third jobs, and crushing debt.