A long-overdue raise for millions

Published May 29, 2007

Ten years is a long wait for a bit more pocket change per hour, but Americans who make the minimum wage are getting a long-overdue raise.

Congress has approved a plan that will add $2.10 per hour to the federal minimum wage during the next two years, with workers seeing a 70-cent increase this summer. By 2009, all employees will earn at least $7.25 an hour.

It's about time.

The increase, the first since a 40-cent boost in 1997, ends the longest spell between raises in the 69-year history of the minimum wage. It also moves past years of partisan squabbling over the reasonable cost of boosting the paychecks of an estimated 5.6-million workers, many of whom are single parents or minorities.

While Florida's minimum wage tracks the Consumer Price Index and rose 30 cents this year to $6.67 per hour, federal legislation provides assurance that future increases are on the horizon for workers nationwide. The jump also could mean that employers might give a boost to workers who earn just above the bottom wage to remain competitive.

To soften the impact on employers, Congress was offering a $4.84- billion tax break to small businesses to help cover the cost of higher salaries.

For years, Congress has let inflation shrink the buying power of the minimum wage. The latest increase finally had to be attached to President Bush's war funding request, but how it was passed is less important than the result and what it will mean for low-wage workers.