Letter to the Editor: MLK’s vision of economic justice

By Judy Quaglia Belanger, 9to5 Action Network Member

January 11, 2014

Originally posted in the Attelboro, MA Sun Chronicle


Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There is nothing but a lack of social vision to prevent us from paying an adequate wage to every American citizen, whether (she or) he be a hospital worker, laundry worker, maid or day laborer.”

Since 1968, the year King was assassinated, the value of the minimum wage has eroded more than 30 percent.

There have been many partisan arguments regarding minimum wage, but we should all take a minute to look at the numbers. They’re startling.

At only $7.25, we know the minimum wage keeps hardworking Americans and their families in poverty. The full-time minimum wage worker makes just under the poverty line for a family of three.

With a minimum wage of only $2.13 an hour, waitresses and waiters make up a majority of tipped workers and are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than the general workforce. Also, the average age of the minimum wage worker is 35 years old; 88 percent are not teenagers (they’re 20 or older); 36 percent are 40 or older; 56 percent are women; 28 percent have children; 55 percent work full time; on average they earn half of their family’s total income.

Passing the Fair Minimum Wage Act is a crucial step in fighting for racial and gender equality. Of the 30 million workers who would get a raise, nearly half are workers of color, (and as mentioned, 56 percent are women).

Seventy-one percent of tipped workers who would benefit from the law are women.

The law would be instrumental in enabling workers to provide for their families. Across the country, 17 million children have a parent who would get a raise.

Furthermore, the biggest employers of low-wage workers have been profitable, with two-thirds making higher profits now than before the recession. Yet, taxpayers have had to subsidize the living costs of these low-wage employees to the tune of over $7 billion a year.

In a 1967 speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”

Organizations, such as 9to5, care about working families and support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of economic justice for all.

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