Washington – Seven years ago, 200 fast-food workers in New York City walked off the job to demand $15 and union rights. People laughed, saying $15 was outrageous, unwinnable, ridiculous.
However, U.S. House and Senate Democrats recently introduced a bill for a $15 minimum wage across the country. Nobody is laughing anymore.
Voters in November overwhelmingly backed candidates who stood for $15 and union rights.
“This is a huge moment in the history of workers’ rights,” said Terrence Wise, a McDonald’s employee and activist in the Fight for $15 movement in Kansas City, MO. “It’s about more than wages. This is about dignity. This is about respect. This is about having our lives, our families, and our futures valued — by politicians, by our bosses, by our country.”
Missouri voters approved gradually increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2023 in the November 2018 election, overwhelmingly passing Proposition B following a campaign led by Missouri Jobs with Justice with the support of Organized Labor.
Missouri’s minimum wage went up by 75 cents to $8.60 an hour on Jan. 1, in the first of five scheduled increases, and will increase 85 cents each year on Jan.1 for the next four years.
RAISE THE WAGE ACT
The Raise the Wage Act of 2019, introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott, of Virginia, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 in 2024, index future minimum wage increases to median wage growth, and ensure all workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by phasing out the sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities.
“No person working full-time in America should be living in poverty,” Scott said. “The Raise the Wage Act will increase the pay and standard of living for nearly 40 million workers across this country.
“Raising the minimum wage is not only good for workers, it is good for businesses, and good for the economy. When we put money in the pockets of American workers, they will spend that money in their communities. This bill is a stimulus for Main Street America,” Scott said.
The bill was introduced with 181 House cosponsors.
COMPANION BILL IN THE SENATE
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a companion bill in the Senate with 31 cosponsors.
“Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an
hour was ‘radical.’ But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Sanders said.
“It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour,” he said.
‘ECONOMY WORKS BEST WHEN IT WORKS FOR EVERYONE’
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “A $15 federal minimum wage affirms the bedrock idea of fairness in our country: that hard work deserves a decent wage. We will open up opportunities for working families and drive economic growth that lifts up all communities – because our economy works best when it works for everyone, not just the wealthy and privileged few.
“I commend Chairman Bobby Scott and all our House Democrats for their leadership for America’s working men and women, who are the backbone of our country,” she said.
MINIMUM WAGE NOW A POVERTY WAGE
“For a long time, Democrats have been trying to raise the minimum wage to keep pace with the times,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “The harsh truth of the matter is that the minimum wage is now a poverty wage in too many parts of America. And no American with a full-time job should be living in poverty.
“Despite campaigning as a champion for working Americans, President Trump has abandoned working Americans while in office,” Schumer said. “He’s tried to strip away workers’ health care, given a massive tax cut to corporations and the wealthy, and used workers as bargaining chips in shutting the government down.
“If President Trump isn’t going to stick up for American workers on key issues such as raising the minimum wage, Democrats will.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (D-Maryland), who helped lead the charge to increase the minimum wage the last time Democrats held the House Majority said Democrats promised to improve economic conditions for workers and their families in the 2018 election.
Introducing the Raise the Wage Act as one of the first orders of Democrats’ first bills in the majority, he said, demonstrates their intention to keep that promise.
“It has been too long since workers have received the raise they deserve,” Hoyer said.
TWO-THIRDS OF MINIMUM WAGE EARNERS ARE WOMEN
“There are millions of women and men across the country who work a full-time job, or work multiple jobs, and are still unable to pay their bills and make ends meet,” said Washington State Senator Patty Murray, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “Women make up almost two-thirds of minimum wage earners and it’s even worse for women of color.”
Murray said the Raise the Wage Act will help ensure the millions of women supporting their families have the economic security to build better lives.
More than a decade after Congress last voted to raise the minimum wage, no family in the United States can live on $7.25 an hour, Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said.
“Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do and long past due,” Pocan said. “Every Member of Congress should recognize the urgent need to raise the wage, and if they support a salary of only $15,080 per year, they should be forced to live on it.”
‘GROW OUR ECONOMY FOR EVERYONE’
“Over the last decade, most working families have seen an increase in the cost of almost everything they need, yet their wages have barely moved,” Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, of Florida, said.
“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 ones. This bill will finally give hardworking families… a much-needed raise – putting more money in their pockets to spend at small businesses and helping to grow our economy for everyone.”