Congressional Democrats are introducing a bill that would see the federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2025.
The “Raise the Wage Act” would increase the $7.25 federal minimum wage to $9.50 upon passage, and then raise wages by a little more than a dollar each year until reaching $15 an hour by 2025.
After hitting $15 an hour the bill would ensure wage growth is indexed to inflation or automatically adjusted using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The bill is being backed widely by Democrats, including Congressional leadership House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, as well as progressive leaders, including Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and incoming Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders.
House Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) is introducing the bill into the House and Sanders is introducing the Senate version. The last time Congress successfully changed the federal minimum wage was in 2007.
President Biden, who campaigned off a $15 minimum wage and who has already taken steps to give federal workers and contractors a $15 minimum wage, is expected to back the bill.
A similar bill in 2019 passed the U.S. House with a 231-199 vote. The votes among Texas’ congressional delegation fell along party lines, with no Texas Republicans backing the bill and all Texas Democrats supporting it. The Senate version of the bill saw no movement in the Republican-controlled chamber.
So far, 29 states not including Texas have passed legislation to raise minimum wages above $7.25 an hour. California, for example, increased its minimum wage to $14 this year and will increase it to $15 by 2022.
Similar efforts in Texas have repeatedly failed over the years. During the last state legislative session, more than 15 bills filed to raise the minimum wage were ignored or left pending in committee, according to Reform Austin.
“Workers in Texas stand to benefit more than anywhere else from a $15 wage,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) reacting to the bill. “Over 3.5 million Texans would receive a direct pay raise — including more than 160,000 workers in my district in San Antonio. Let’s pass this legislation immediately.”
Some on the left, including former Sanders campaign surrogates David Sirota and Nina Turner, have already begun to voice their displeasure at the timeline of the legislation. In the past, progressives like Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) pushed fellow Democrats to go further, to $18 to $20 an hour to factor in the rising cost of living. Tlaib made the same argument Tuesday while stumping for the new $15 an hour legislation.
The wage bill has received the blessing of Fight For 15, the fast-food worker-led movement that began in 2012, as well as the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank whose work focuses on labor and income inequality issues.
In an analysis of the legislation released Tuesday, EPI found that raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would increase the income of nearly 32 million workers, about a fifth of the U.S. workforce, and would also help narrow the racial pay gap.
“The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 is not just moral policy, it is also good economics,” they wrote. “A $15 minimum wage by 2025 would generate $107 billion in higher wages for workers, boosting annual earnings for the average affected year-round worker by $3,300.”
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