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Raise the Wage Act Calls for $15 Minimum Wage

The bill was introduced in the House and Senate and would be the first minimum wage hike in a decade

Brian Young's picture
Jan 26, 2021

Since 2009 the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour. Currently, 20 states have minimum wages that are at or below the federal minimum wage. However, a new bill in Congress would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and make future increases automatic.

The bill, called The Raise the Wage Act, would create five wage increases over the next four years so that in 2025 the minimum wage nationally is $15 an hour. Then beginning in 2026, increases would be indexed to median wage growth. This ensures that increases happen at a regular rate instead of at the whim of millionaire politicians in Washington DC. The act would also phase out the tipped worker minimum wage which allows jobs where workers are tipped to pay significantly less than the minimum wage. Federally, the tipped wage is $2.13 per hour. It would also create a sunset for laws allowing workers with disabilities and workers under 20 to be paid a subminimum wage.

The bill currently has 37 co-sponsors in the Senate, and it was introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.). In the House, sponsors include 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.). Both Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are supporting the bill.

“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.”

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), raising the wage to $15 an hour would lift pay for nearly 32 million workers. That represents about 21% of the US workforce. On average affected workers, who work year-round, would make an extra $3,300 a year. Increasing the minimum wage would also be good for business as the increase would generate $107 billion in extra income for the nation’s lowest earning workers. Historically, these are the people that spend much of their extra earnings, meaning that much of the $107 billion would be injected right back into the economy.

While most people think of minimum wage earners or low-income workers as teenagers flipping burgers at McDonald’s, the truth is that adult women (ages 25-54) would benefit the most. While one in ten teenagers would get a raise, 51% of women between the ages of 25 and 54 would get more money in their paycheck. These are women that work as home health aides, work in retail stores, and even teachers in some states. Many of these are college-educated, full-time workers who have children. Many are also essential workers including substitute teachers ($13.84), nursing assistants ($14.26), and home health aides ($12.15)

While the $15 minimum wage once seemed like a pipe dream, it has now become a reality for many workers. About 40% of the US workforce lives in a state that has approved or reached a $15 minimum wage. These states include California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Additionally, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Vermont, Missouri, Michigan, and Maine have minimum wages that range from $12-14.75 an hour.

“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,” said Kansas City McDonald’s worker Fran Marion. “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."

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