Mitch McConnell and the Minimum Wage

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From the 1997 until 2007, the federal minimum wage remained at $5.15, even as gas, grocery and other bills escalated[1] . The inflationary pressures were particularly hard on the 1,148,000 Kentuckians who, according to the most recent government data, earn the bare minimum.[2]  This was the longest period the wage did not increase since its inception in 1938.[3]  It should be noted that during that time the salary for U.S. senators increased nearly 24 percent.[4]

Sen. Mitch McConnell voted against increasing the federal minimum wage at least 14 times over ten years[5] , and as a member of the Republican Senate leadership, McConnell helped organize the fight to sink proposals to increase the wage by tying it to “poison pills” such as elimination of the estate tax.[6]  That wasn’t enough for McConnell, though. In January 2007, he even supported an amendment that would have effectively ended the minimum wage altogether.[7]

The leading opponents of the minimum wage are industries known for employing low-skilled workers – the retail, hospitality and food service industries. They have been big boosters of McConnell, having contributed $1,485,295 to his campaigns and political action committee since 1989.[8]  While they weren’t willing to give more money to their employees, they opened up their wallets – and opened them wide and often – for McConnell.

 

1. U.S. Department of Labor, “History of Federal Minimum Wage Rates Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938 – 2007,”http://www.dol.gov/ESA/minwage/chart.htm, accessed October 20, 2008.
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers: 2004,”http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2004tbls.htm#3, accessed October 20, 2008.
3. U.S. Department of Labor
4. Ida A. Brudnick, “Salaries of Members of Congress: A List of Payable Rates and Effective Dates,” Congressional Research Service, February 21, 2008.
5. HR 2, Vote 23, 1/24/07 ; S. Amdt 4322 to S. 2766, Vote 179, 6/21/06 ; S. Amdt 2063 to HR 3058, Vote 257, 10/19/05 ; S. Amdt 44 to S 256, Vote 26, 3/7/05 ; S.Amdt.3079 to S.Amdt.2951 to S.Con.Res.101, Vote 76, 4/7/00 ; S. 1429, Vote 239, 7/30/99 ; S.Amdt. 195 to S.Con.Res. 20, Vote 77, 3/25/99 ; HR 3448, Vote 184, 7/9/96 ; HR 1296, Vote 58, 3/28/96 ; S 1357, Vote 519, 10/27/95 ; S 908, Vote 344, 7/31/95 ; HR 2, Vote 68, 5/17/89 ; HR 2, Vote 39, 4/12/89 ; S 4, Vote 29, 4/11/89
6. Associated Press, “Senate Rejects GOP Estate Tax, Minimum Wage Bill,” August 4, 2006.
7. S. Amdt. 116 to S. Amdt. 100 to H.R. 2, Vote 24, 1/24/07
8.  Campaign finance and lobbying figures are based on Campaign Money Watch analysis of data obtained from the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan organization that tracks and codes campaign finance data by industry and tracks lobbying. Campaign finance data include individual contributions ($200+) and from Political Action Committees (PACs) to campaign committees and leadership PACs. Data for the 2008 cycle were downloaded in October 2008