Protesters participate in a protest outside McDonald’s corporate headquarters on January 15, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The protest was part of a nationwide effort to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
Scott Olson | Getty Images
The Democrats on Tuesday reintroduced a bill to increase the US minimum wage to $ 15 an hour to gain new support for politics during an economic crisis and under the control of Congress and the White House.
The legislation would gradually raise the wage floor to $ 15 an hour across the country by 2025, then tie future increases to median wage growth. The measure would also end pay below the minimum wage for tipped workers, as well as for certain youth and people with disabilities.
The party has long been pushing for the federal minimum wage to be raised, which has been bogged down at $ 7.25 an hour since 2009. On Tuesday, sponsors of the law said efforts had become more urgent as the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated racial inequality and millions did important work for low pay.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $ 7.25 minimum wage was economically and morally unacceptable,” Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement. “Now the pandemic shows the gross imbalance between the productivity of our nation’s workers and the wages they receive.”
The democratically held house passed a version of the law known as the Raise the Wage Act in 2019. The GOP-controlled Senate never voted.
The power dynamic in Washington has changed since then. Democrats hold a slim majority in an evenly-divided Senate, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., supports a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour. This also applies to President Joe Biden, who included the policy in his coronavirus aid package.
However, if all Democrats supported the law, the party would have to win over 10 skeptical Republicans to pass it in the Senate. It’s unclear whether Democrats could take advantage of a budget vote, a process that only requires a majority to pass bills but limits the ability of the law to pass a wage increase.
Senate Budgets Committee chairman Bernie Sanders, an independent Vermonter and a $ 15 minimum wage champion, has urged the tool to be used as broad GOP support for the bill appears dubious.
“It clearly has to be done through reconciliation. I’m working very hard on that,” he told The Guardian.
Opponents of a $ 15 floor wage have long argued that Congress should not set a national standard because the cost of living varies across the country. During the coronavirus pandemic, small business groups said the policy would harm companies passing by with existing public health restrictions.
“More than doubling the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, expanding paid vacation mandates and creating new enforcement measures for small businesses by the federal government will make Main Street even harder to survive,” said a subsequent statement the National Federation of Independent Businesses Biden unveiled its economic relief plan earlier this month.
The wage increase law would raise the wage floor to $ 9.50 an hour this year and $ 11 next year. The minimum wage would rise to $ 12.50 an hour in 2023, $ 14 in 2024, and $ 15 in 2025.
The provision to index a further rise to median wage growth is intended to ensure that the country cannot go another decade without a higher minimum wage.
A minimum wage of $ 15 has gained prominence in the country’s pockets. Eight states and Washington, DC, have now approved increases to this threshold.
The newest was Florida, where more than 60% of voters were in favor of a $ 15 minimum wage in November. Democrats have cited the result, which was backed by more than 51% of voters in the state, as evidence of the politics’ popularity.
Proponents have also noted the policy’s potential to reduce racial and gender inequality. The left-wing think tank Economic Policy Institute on Tuesday welcomed the wage increase law, saying 23% of workers who would benefit from the policy were black or Latin American women.
Subscribe to CNBC on YouTube.