WASHINGTON, D.C.—Republican Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Tom Cotton of Arkansas have proposed boosting the national minimum wage to $10 an hour, below the $15 favored by President Biden, Bloomberg reports.
The proposal was presented as an opening offer if Democrats are unable to push through Biden’s version in the COVID-19 relief bill, which the House is expected to vote on Friday. The Romney-Cotton bill is tied to stricter immigration controls and would require all employers to check the immigration status of employees and job applicants after 18 months.
Currently, federal workers and employers in some states are required to check immigration status using the E-Verify computerized system, but some Democrats argue that until long-term undocumented immigrants are given a path to citizenship, the E-verify system should not be mandatory.
“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low,” Sen. Cotton said. Sen. Romney said the bill would boost wages while “eliminating one of the key drivers of illegal immigration.”
According to the Romney-Cotton proposal, the $7.25 hourly federal minimum wage would rise to $10 per hour four years after the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over and would be linked to the chained consumer price index inflation measure going forward.
Unlike the Democratic proposal, businesses with fewer than 20 employees would have a slower phase-in of six years. The sponsors say the increase would affect 21 states that don’t currently have a minimum wage of $10 or above, though nine of those are slated to reach $10 before the bill would take effect.
As NACS Daily reported earlier this month, the proposal to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour was among the first pieces of proposed legislation to advance out of committee in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan. The National Restaurant Association has urged Congress not to pass the increase, claiming that foodservice retailers would suffer from a fast-tracked wage boost as they continue struggling with pandemic-related problems, according to a NACS Daily story last week.
The increased hourly wage “would lead to job losses and higher use of labor-reducing equipment and technology,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president for public affairs, National Restaurant Association, in a letter to Congress. “Nearly all restaurant operators say they will increase menu prices. But what is clear is that raising prices for consumers will not be enough for restaurants to absorb higher labor costs.”
NACS Magazine examines the expected impact the Biden Administration will have on U.S. labor rules in the March cover story: “Regulations and Red Tape.”
Not a NACS Magazine or NACS Daily subscriber? Sign up for free to get industry insights each month in the print or digital edition of NACS Magazine, plus the latest roundup of industry news and trends in your inbox each weekday as a NACS Daily subscriber.