Washington: With the support of 181 cosponsors, congressional Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
Unveiled by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, and House and Senate representatives, the Raise the Wage Act aims to increase the paychecks of some 40-million minimum wage workers by giving them yearly raises until their wages hit $15 an hour, at which point they would continue to rise with the median wage.
The bill, which has been introduced several times previously in various forms, will also see the wages of tipped employees and youth workers under the age of 20 rise to $15 an hour by 2027.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill will open opportunities for families while spurring the country’s economic growth.
“Our economy works best when it works for everyone, not just the wealthy and privileged few,” she said in a statement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who introduced this same bill in 2017 but to no success, said that while the idea of a $15 minimum wage was once seen as “radical” has now became a “grass roots movement of millions.”
“It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it,” he said, calling the current $7.25 minimum wage a “starvation wage.”
Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., said the bill will return dignity to poor yet hardworking, employed individuals.
“No person who has the dignity of a full time job should face the indignity of not being able to provide for themselves and their loved one,” she said.
However, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., disagrees, saying the bill would “derail” economic growth, reported the Huffington Post.
“Today’s bill signals that House Democrats would rather promote Bernie Sanders’ extreme and unworkable campaign platform than accept that Republican pro-growth policies deliver real results to the American people,” said said.
And Shannon Meade, vice president of Public Policy and Workforce, said in a statement reported by CBS News that to compensate for the increase, small businesses would have to lay people off.
“Should Congress drastically increase operating costs then these small businesses will be force to hire fewer people, reduce hours, or even close their doors,” Meade said.
The bill follows moves by several states to independently increase their own minimum wage to this $15 watermark.
On Monday, a Senate subcommittee panel advanced legislation to increase Virginia’s minimum wage to this mark by 2021 while D.C. will see its rise to that level by 2023.
However, the Raise the Wage Act is far from law as it will have to be passed by a Republican majority Senate.