WASHINGTON, April 26 – Addressing hundreds of low-wage workers outside the Capitol, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced legislation Wednesday that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
"For the last 10 years, Congress, giving tax breaks to the rich, has forgotten to raise the minimum wage. We are here to remind them that a $7.25 minimum wage is a starvation minimum wage. Nobody can live on $7.25. You can’t live on $8. You can’t live on $10 an hour," Sanders told the workers. "And that is why we are saying that after 10 years of inaction the United States Congress is going to raise the minimum wage to a living wage: $15 an hour."
"I’m so proud of the strong steps taken in my home state to make sure that full-time work doesn’t leave people in our communities living in poverty," said Murray. "I believe we need a $15 federal minimum wage to bring that progress to communities nationwide. It’s the right thing to do for working parents, for the nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers who are women, and as I’ve heard from business owners in Seattle, it’s the right thing to do for our local economies."
Twenty-three Senate Democrats have signed onto the bill, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 and would be indexed to the 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.
While labor productivity has more than doubled since the late 1960s, pay for workers generally and for low-wage workers in particular has either stagnated or fallen since the 1970s. At the same time, income for those at the top has skyrocketed. The richest 1 percent have seen their income grow by 15 percent since 2009 and by more than 130 percent since the late 1960s.
Sanders and Murray’s legislation would give more than 41 million low-wage workers a raise, increasing the wages of almost 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. A $15 minimum wage by 2024 would generate $144 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 launched the “Fight for $15,” states and cities representing approximately 18 percent of the U.S. workforce – including California, New York State and the District of Columbia – have raised their minimum wages to $15 an hour.
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.
The bill will be introduced in the Senate soon.
Read a summary of the bill here.