In a press conference this week, incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined incoming Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) to announce the introduction of legislation raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 in five steps over the next four years. Beginning in 2026, the federal minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth. 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.
“Let’s be clear. The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. 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 over 33 million workers,” said Senator Sanders. “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. It is time for Congress to act to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour.”
The idea of a $15 minimum wage has been gaining steam since President Biden introduced the measure as part of his $1.9 trillion COVID-relief stimulus package.
“Throughout this pandemic, Democrats and Republicans alike have joined together in rightly calling our frontline workers ‘heroes.’ 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,” said Senator Murray, 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. 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.”
While Sanders’ bill is standalone, President Biden’s plan to attach the $15 minimum wage to COVID-19 relief could derail $1,400 stimulus checks as some moderate Republicans have been hesitant.
According to USA Today, Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., the co-chair of the moderate House Problem Solvers Caucus, has told reporters that the addition of the minimum wage increase could make the COVID-19 stimulus package seem like it was “contaminated” by partisans who were using the package to “legislate on things that are not related directly to the crisis.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, stated that the minimum wage increase “really has nothing to do with COVID relief.”
“Americans working 40 hours a week should be able to put food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads, but with the minimum wage stuck at $7.25, far too many are working hard and still in poverty,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is one step Congress should take right now, particularly with the COVID-19 crisis stretching families’ resources further than ever. I am happy to move forward with this group to make it happen and give the American people a raise.”
“This pandemic has pushed millions more Americans into poverty and we need to ensure that every working American is able to support themselves and their families,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Passing the Raise the Wage Act is more critical now than ever. Finally delivering a $15 minimum wage will benefit workers by lifting their families out of poverty and it will strengthen our economic recovery. We must keep fighting until all hardworking Americans can access basic economic security and a fair shot in our economy.”Raise-the-Wage-Act-Bill-FINAL
“The coronavirus pandemic and economic crises have pulled back the veil on the unconscionable economic disparities that working women, low-income families and other vulnerable communities have faced for decades,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “By re-introducing the Chair Bobby Scott’s Raise the Wage Act, which passed on a bipartisan basis in the previous Congress, the Democratic Congress is taking another strong and long-needed step to honor the dignity, dedication and contributions of millions of hard-working Americans. This legislation is a key part of Democrats’ commitment to not only recover from these crises, but to Build Back Better – and to do so in a way that advances justice, prosperity and equality for all Americans.”
Sanders’ Senate companion is being cosponsored by 37 Members: Chair Murray (D-Wash.), Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sens. Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Booker, (D-N.J.) Brown (D-Ohio), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cardin (D-Md.), Casey (D-Pa.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kaine (D-Va.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Lujan (D-N.M.), Markey (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Murphy, (D-Conn.) Ossoff (D-Ga.), Padilla (D-Calif.), Peters (D-Mich.), Reed (D-R.I.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Smith (D-Minn.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Warner (D-Va.), Warnock (D-Ga.). Warren (D-Mass.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Wyden (D-Ore.).