Exactly four years ago, hardworking folks across the country finally got a pay raise ten years in the making.
One of the first laws I helped pass, just a couple of months after joining the Senate, was the Fair Minimum Wage Act. And it became law four years ago today.
Passing that law was a promise I’d made to Montanans. I’m proud that it was a promise kept.
On the same ballot where my name appeared in 2006, Montanans overwhelmingly passed a measure raising our state’s minimum wage. I endorsed the effort and it earned the support of 73 percent of Montanans.
Montanans sent a clear message with that vote–that we understand the value of workplace protections like the minimum wage.
Because by 2006, years of failed federal economic policies by politicians in Congress had led to Montana coming in 50th (dead last) for wages in the entire country.
Montanans understand the minimum wage is an American value. And it’s a value I took with me to the Senate, where I fight for our working families every day.
I fought to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act–which raised the minimum wage after the longest gap between increases in history–for the same reasons I’ve fought for more jobs, better access to veterans’ care and lower taxes for working families. And it’s why I fought to put health care decisions in the hands of patients instead of insurance companies.
For the same reasons, I fought for other workplace protections like the Lillie Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to prevent discrimination against women.
I’ve fought for these changes because I’m a third generation family farmer and small business owner and I know firsthand the challenges that working Montana families face.
They deserve leaders who work for them.
Other members of Congress have had different priorities over the years. But I personally believe public service is not about looking out for your own career or your own paycheck. Public service should be about building a better future for our kids and grandkids.
On this anniversary, let’s redouble our efforts to strengthen the middle class, in Montana and across the country.
Because a lot of politicians who’ve stood in the way of progress for our working families have no idea what it’s like to earn a minimum wage.
Maybe if they did, we’d see how quickly they start changing their tune.
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on May 25, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Senator Jon Tester is a third generation family farmer from Big Sandy, Montana. He farms the same land his grandparents homesteaded nearly 100 years ago. During his first Senate term, he has earned a reputation as a champion for rural veterans, a pioneer in government transparency and a powerful voice for rural America.