The gateway to the middle class and achieving economic security and success in America has always been based on having a good paying job. But, today, for millions of Americans in communities across the country, our jobs crisis is forcing far too many middle class families to choose between paying their mortgages, having quality, affordable child care, putting food on the table or taking a sick child to the doctor.

Everyone knows America needs to create more jobs, but our country cannot settle only for jobs that pay the minimum wage. The low federal minimum wage contributes to the income inequality that is the number one economic issue facing America. That is why Congress needs to act now to increase the minimum wage.

With an average age of 28, about 15 million people in our country earn the federal minimum wage. Make no mistake, these are poverty wages that simply cannot support families, especially those with children.

The impact of poverty wages on working families is profound. Most minimum wage jobs also lack basic protections and benefits like healthcare, family and medical leave , including paid sick days, and often require people to work non-standard hours. Many minimum wage workers are forced to have more than one job just to make ends meet. Living on $7.25 an hour doesn’t enable people to pay for vitally important services like child care, so that they can go to work, or get further education, skills training and other opportunities with career pathways that will lead to fa20110711kp_MaryKayHenry_02.JPGmily sustaining jobs.

The American people need an economy that works for everyone – where anyone who wants a job can get a good job, where folks who work full-time can afford to raise a family and where our children can look forward to a life full of opportunity. That’s the American Dream, but rising income inequality is putting that dream in jeopardy.

Raising the minimum wage is an important step toward an economy that works for everyone, not just the richest few. Putting more money in the pockets of hard working Americans will get our economy moving again, and help small businesses grow and create jobs. But most importantly, it will bring workers and their families out of poverty.

It’s time working people in our country got a raise. People who work full-time should be able to support their families and live off their wages. Today’s minimum wage cannot support a family and keeps millions of Americans below the poverty level. In the richest country in the world, that is just not acceptable.