The year was 1968. The Number 1 song was Hey Jude by The Beatles. The Graduate was a top movie. Patchouli was in the air. Feeling nostalgic yet?
If not, maybe this will get you pining to turn back the clock for a moment: 1968 also marked a peak in the minimum wage that we haven’t reached since.
You read that right: after adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage was at its highest all the way back in 1968… at about $10.00 an hour in contemporary dollars.
Today, forty-four years later we are nearly a dollar behind the 1968 figure here in Washington State — and we have the highest minimum wage in the nation. In most other states, the floor is even lower — the Federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised in 3 years.
Today, millions of workers across the country earn wages well below the $10 high-water mark set in 1968. And these are not a bunch of kids working a few hours to earn money for videogames. A recent study showed that only 12% of minimum wage workers are teenagers working less than 20 hours a week. The rest are adults working hard to try and make ends meet… but struggling to hold it together because of the declining purchasing power of the minimum wage.
The 99% aren’t expecting to get rich — we just want a decent wage, a fair shake, and a shot at a better life. The first step is getting the minimum wage back up at least to where it was in 1968: at $10/hour, as is being proposed in the Catching up to 1968 Act that’s been proposed in Congress.
There was time when that didn’t seem like too much to ask. And there’s no reason it should be too much to ask today, either. We need a decent minimum wage in our future, not just as a relic of our past. Because how can our economy ever get back on its feet if we continue down an economic path where the top 1% get all the spoils for our hard work?