U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that he will re-introduce legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour in the first week of the new Congress.
“While the official unemployment rate is relatively low, too many workers in America today are making wages that don’t pay enough to make ends meet. Workers and their families cannot make it on $9 an hour or $10 an hour – or even less,” Sanders said. “We have got to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage – at least $15 an hour.”
This bill would give more than 40 million low-wage workers a raise, increasing the wages more of than 25 percent of the U.S. workforce. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 and would index it to median wage growth thereafter. This raise would increase the minimum wage higher than its 1968 peak. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009.
The average worker who would benefit from a $15 an hour minimum wage is more than 35 years old. The majority of low-wage workers are women – over 20 million of whom would get a raise by increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. A $15 minimum wage by 2024 would generate over $100 billion in higher wages for workers, benefiting their local economies.
The bill will also gradually eliminate the loophole that allows tipped workers and workers with disabilities to be paid substantially less than the federal minimum wage, bringing it to parity with the regular minimum wage. Moreover, it would also phase out the youth minimum wage, which allows employers to pay workers under 20 years old a lower wage for the first 90 calendar days of work.
Since 2012, when striking fast-food workers first launched the “Fight for $15,” the cities of Seattle, Minneapolis and Washington have all raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. California, New York and Massachusetts are doing the same and millions of workers are seeing a substantial increase in their pay as a result.
While labor productivity has more than doubled since the late 1960s, ordinary workers make less today than they did in 1973, after adjusting for inflation. Meanwhile, nearly half of all new income generated in the U.S. has gone to the top 1 percent since 1993.
The Senate bill was cosponsored by Sanders, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and 27 others in the Senate. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and 170 members of the House.