This blog post was cross-posted on EFE, and you can read the original article HERE.
Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to reflect on the extraordinary contribution that the Latino workforce makes to our nation’s economic vitality. This is also a time to remember that as a nation, we need to ensure that all hardworking people are able to get ahead and reach for the American dream.
It used to be that you could support a family on a minimum-wage salary. Today, a minimum-wage worker has to make a choice every day: Buy a gallon of milk for the kids, or buy a gallon of gas to get to work. That is why it’s time to raise the minimum wage.
Today, Latinos account for around a quarter of current minimum wage workers, despite only representing around 16% of all workers. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would make a difference in the lives of around 28 million workers — roughly one quarter of the workers who would benefit from that raise are Latinos.
President Obama continues to call on Congress to increase the national minimum wage, but they have continuously failed to act. Fortunately, people around the country aren't waiting. A national movement is inspiring states, local governments and forward-looking businesses to show leadership where Congress hasn't.
Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia have passed new laws increasing their minimum wages over the last year and a half. More than 7 million workers will benefit from those increases.
A higher minimum wage is pro-business as well as pro-worker. Employers have embraced a higher minimum wage and acted on their own to raise their employees' pay. From national brands such as Costco and the Gap, to the Ace Hardware store just a mile away from my office, companies are giving their workers a raise not just because it's the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do for the bottom line. It improves morale, productivity and customer service; it reduces absenteeism, turnover and training costs.
Many employers believe that the people who make or sell their products ought to make enough money to buy them. In an economy driven by consumer demand, what any business needs most are customers. When working families have more money in their pockets, they pump it right back into the economy. They spend it on goods and services in their communities — and that helps businesses grow, which creates more jobs.
In addition to asking Congress to act, the President is doing what he can to help more workers get a raise. He signed an executive order, which we at the Labor Department are in the process of implementing, to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour for private-sector workers on federal contracts. It's hard to argue against this idea: If you serve meals to our troops for a living, you shouldn't have to struggle to make ends meet in order to serve a meal to your family at home.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let us honor the important contributions of Latino workers to this nation’s economic vitality by recommitting ourselves to expanding opportunity for Latinos.