Congressional Democrats are pushing to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025 from the current rate of $7.25.
Incoming Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) joined House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) incoming Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) to introduce legislation gradually raising the federal minimum wage.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years, according to a Jan. 26 press release from Murray. Thereafter, the federal minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth. The legislation also guarantees that all workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by gradually phasing out the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers and workers with disabilities.
Washington state has a minimum wage of $13.69 per hour. The city of Seattle has a minimum wage of $16.69 per hour.
Congress has not increased the federal minimum wage in more than a decade – the longest stretch since it was first established in 1938.
“Throughout this pandemic, Democrats and Republicans alike have joined together in rightly calling our frontline workers ‘heroes,’” Murray said. “But despite their tireless work and the risk of COVID exposure, too many of these workers are paid wages so low, they can’t afford to pay for even their most basic needs. And because of systemic inequities and discrimination, workers of color, and in particular, women of color, are much more likely to be paid poverty-level wages.”
Murray is the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
“Democrats are asking for $15 an hour, because no one working 40 hours a week, should be making $15,000 a year,” Murray said. If we’re committed to an economy that works for everyone, we need one fair, livable wage for everyone—and that includes workers with disabilities, tipped workers and youth workers. We won’t accept carve-outs and we won’t accept leaving anyone behind.”
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $7.25 federal minimum wage was economically and morally indefensible,” Scott said. “Now, the pandemic is highlighting the gross imbalance between the productivity of our nation’s workers and the wages they are paid. Many of the essential workers who have braved a public health crisis to keep food on the table and care for our loved ones are still not being paid enough to provide for themselves or their families.
“Today, a full-time worker cannot afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment in any country in the U.S. Around the country, Americans across the political spectrum have repeatedly supported raising the minimum wage. In November, more than 60 percent of voters in Florida voted to increase the state minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act is a critical step toward lifting hardworking people out of poverty, addressing income inequality, and building back a better economy where everyone can succeed.”
According to an independent analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the Raise the Wage Act would increase wages for nearly 32 million Americans, including roughly a third of all Black workers and a quarter of all Latino workers. More than half of those who would benefit would be women.
“Let’s be clear. The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage,” Sanders said. “No person in America can make it on $8, $10, or $12 an hour. In the United States of America a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – at least $15 an hour. And when we do that, not only will we be lifting millions of Americans out of poverty, we will be providing a raise to nearly 32 million workers. We can no longer tolerate millions of workers not being able to afford to feed their families or pay the rent. The time for talk is over. No more excuses.”
A McDonald’s worker in Kansas City supports the hike.
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will change my life and let me tell my kids I can give them a better life than mine,” Fran Marion said. “I’m so proud to join with leaders in Congress today as they reintroduce the Raise the Wage Act, which will give tens of millions of working families like mine the raise we so desperately need. Essential workers have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and we can’t wait for help any longer.”