Last week, the House passed the Raise the Wage Act of 2019. If successfully passed by the Senate, this legislation would be the first time in a decade that Congress has raised the minimum wage.
Our economy has fundamentally changed over the last ten years, but for too many Americans their wages have not. The current minimum of $7.25 an hour was inadequate when it was implemented in 2009, and it is far too little to survive on in today’s world. It is past time for Congress to step in and increase the minimum wage to help workers.
The Raise the Wage Act would:
- Increase the minimum wage incrementally until it reaches $15 an hour in 2025.
- Index the minimum wage yearly to keep pace with the growth in median worker’s wages.
- Gradually phase out the sub-minimum tipped wage, which has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1991.
- Eliminate sub-minimum wages for workers under 20 and workers with disabilities.
Our elected officials have consistently failed to establish livable wages for working people, but this is a chance for them to finally step up. The Senate needs to act – American workers can’t afford to wait much longer for a raise.
Currently, 40% of Americans struggle to afford basic necessities, and 40% cannot even afford a $400 emergency like an unforeseen medical expense. In most parts of the US, minimum wage workers must work 2.5 full time jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment. When nearly half of the working population is barely scraping by, something’s got to give. This is unsustainable.
The Raise the Wage Act will give millions of workers more stability and security. In fact, according to the CBO report that came out earlier this month, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would give 27 million people a raise and lift almost 1.3 million people out of poverty.
But this isn’t just good for workers, it’s good for business as well.
Wage stagnation and wealth inequality have compromised the growth of the American economy. Our economy relies on consumer demand, but without an increase in the minimum wage, our economic growth will stall. With 40% of American workers earning less than $15 an hour, and minimum wage workers having already lost almost 15% of their purchasing power in the economy since the last minimum wage increase, a vast swath of the population can barely afford to participate in our economy.
The wealthy cannot make money selling things to people who only make $7.25 an hour. These workers cannot afford things like rent, groceries, or clothes, let alone meals at restaurants. Increasing the minimum wage will boost spending in the economy and ensure that growth spreads everywhere.
So What’s Next for the Raise the Wage Act?
The Raise the Wage Act will now go to the Senate where it faces fierce opposition from Republicans. The Senate HELP Committee Chair, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, has stated in the past that he not only does not want to raise the minimum wage, but that he actually believes in abolishing the minimum wage altogether. He has been openly hostile to any efforts to raise the minimum wage, and so far, he has not been willing to use his authority to start a dialogue.
If Senator Alexander decides to bring the bill out of committee (which could only happen with serious, bipartisan pressure), the Senate will need bipartisan support for the bill to pass. Although raising the minimum wage has widespread support from average Americans (including 46% of Republicans), Congress is still divided on the issue.
Mitch McConnell, who has turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, will have to be pushed into serving the American people rather than his corporate donors. Groups such as the National Restaurant Association have lobbied hard against increasing the minimum wage, instead preferring that the American people subsidize their businesses and pay for labor costs. Republicans must put the interests of common working-class Americans over the interests of these lobbying groups, but that’s not going to happen without overwhelming popular pressure.
It is time for Congress to step up and protect millions of low-wage workers in the US. The House has taken the first step, and now the Senate must do their part. By passing the Raise the Wage Act, America can once again become a land of opportunity and growth. But the Senate will not do this without being pushed to act. Citizens must take the time to call, email, and write to their senators, and demand that they support the Raise the Wage Act.
This fight is already underway, You can bet that each and every Senator has already heard today from lobbyists pushing to kill the Raise the Wage Act, so they also need to hear from you. Call your Senator today at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to support the Raise the Wage Act.