It's been nearly 10 years since the federal government increased the minimum wage to the present $5.15 per hour. Democrats say a wage hike will be the first order of business when they roll out their new Congressional agenda next month.

A raise would boost the wages of an estimated 6.5 million Americans. The AP reports that is about 4 percent of the nation's workforce.

Many Americans got tired of waiting for Congress to act. Twenty-eight states, not including Oklahoma, have raised their minimum wages above the Federal level. Washington state's $7.63 an hour is the highest. It is scheduled to increase to $7.94 next month.

Some cities, too, have enacted "livable wages" that require even higher hourly pay rates than states. In February of 2003, Santa Fe approved an $8.50 minimum wage for any business in the city with at least 25 employees. The wage rises $1 per hour every two years until it reaches $10.50 in 2008. After that, the rate is indexed to inflation.

Teen workers make up a quarter of all minimum wage earners. Half of those earning the minimum are older than 25, the Associated Press reports.

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