WASHINGTON—Emboldened by their majority in Congress, Democrats yesterday reintroduced legislation in the U.S. House and Senate to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour in gradual steps by 2025, CNBC reports. A $15 minimum wage is part of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus relief package.
Under the Raise the Wage Act, the federal minimum wage would rise to $9.50 this year from $7.25, then increase every year until it reaches $15 in 2025. Future increases would be tied to median wage growth.
Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-VA), chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), incoming chair of Senate Committee on Budget, sponsored the act.
The Democrat-controlled House approved the same legislation in 2019, but the Republican-controlled Senate didn’t allow it to advance.
Republicans have long opposed a $15-an-hour nationwide minimum wage, citing worry that it could hinder small businesses. Business owners are seeking to provide higher wages for employees, while also struggling to stay in business in the wake of the pandemic, which has increased the need to adhere to higher levels of public health and safety protocols. Republicans additionally cite the discrepancies in the cost of living across the country as a reason to oppose a national $15 minimum wage.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) yesterday suggested that Democrats could use the budget reconciliation process to raise the minimum wage without any Republican votes, The Hill reports. In that case, Senate Democrats need only a simple majority to approve the measure. However, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmouth (D-KY) has expressed skepticism that the provision would survive the Senate parliamentarian’s review.
Yesterday, restaurant workers and owners, along with their supporters, from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York, gathered near the Capitol to celebrate the introduction of the Raise the Wage Act.
The nonprofit One Fair Wage organized the rally. Restaurant workers, flanked by a gigantic statue of “Elena the Essential Worker,” shared stories about why ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers is needed to help ensure that they and their families can survive the pandemic.
“It is time to restore the soul of our country, and that includes the heartbeat of our economy: independent restaurants, our team members, and our communities. 500,000 small businesses and nearly 14 million workers look forward to building back better,” said Saru Jayaraman, executive director and co-founder of One Fair Wage. “We are at a critical moment for tipped service industry workers, mostly women and people of color, who are facing unprecedented rates of housing and food insecurity, unemployment and poverty.”