Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Contact: Margaret Justus, 713-236-0306

Sen. Ellis Joins ACORN to call for Raise in Minimum Wage

HOUSTON, TX -- Today, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) joined ACORN for a press conference, held simultaneously with a press conference led by Senator Harry Reid and ACORN leaders in Washington, D.C., to call for in increase in the minimum wage.

Senator Ellis filed Senate Bill 95 Monday, which will raise the minimum wage in Texas to $7.15 an hour in two steps and allow for future increases based on inflation.

The bill would add $1 an hour to the current minimum wage of $5.15 on Sept. 1, 2007, and a second $1 an hour on Sept. 1, 2008. After that, the state minimum wage would rise with the cost of inflation.

Since the minimum wage was last raised at the federal level in 1997, it has lost l5 percent of its purchasing power, and its real, inflation-adjusted value is at its lowest point in 50 years.

“The minimum wage is a poverty wage, and that’s unacceptable,” Senator Ellis said. "Hardworking Texas families shouldn't forced to choose between feeding their children and paying rent, between going to the grocery store and going to the doctor."

According to a recent study by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, at the current minimum wage of $5.15/hr, a Minimum wage worker with two children would have to work over 150 hours a weeks, just to pull their income over the poverty line. An individual who works full-time earns only $10,700 a year—$5,900, below the poverty line for a family of three.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have taken the initiative to raise their hourly wage minimums, including all six that considered the issue in the Nov. 7 election. When ballot initiatives in these states take effect, 70% of the U.S. workforce will live in a state with a higher minimum wage than Texas.

“A decent minimum wage increase would benefit Texas in many ways. It would bring self-sufficiency to some families who work multiple jobs and allow them to reduce or eliminate reliance on public benefits. Raising the minimum wage rewards the strong work ethic we want to encourage, allowing someone who works hard at a full-time job to support a family and the opportunity to access a bridge out of poverty. I want to help to ensure the American Dream remains a reality for all Texans who are willing put in a hard day's work” Senator Ellis said.

“What this bill will clearly not do is cost the state jobs,” Senator Ellis said. “The experience of states that have raised the minimum wage is that a modest minimum wage increase at the level we are discussing has actually helped the job market. But a minimum wage increase clearly helps a large number of workers and their families make ends meet and improve their lives.”

As of October, approximately 523,000 Texas workers, or 5 percent of the workforce, earned less than $6.15 an hour. Another 543,000 Texas workers would benefit from the second year’s increase $7.15 an hour contained under Senate Bill 95.

CPPP's research shows that most low-wage workers are adult, female and work full time. The benefits of increasing the wages of these workers would extend far beyond the ability to buy more at the store. Families that can pay for basic necessities can devote more time and resources to the education and health of their children. Those are precisely the investments that produce the biggest long-term rewards in our state.