A bipartisan group of elected officials, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. This increase is an effort to propel more than seven million Black workers into more financially stable waters.
“Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’ But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Sanders said at a news conference. “Our job in the wealthiest country in the history of the world is to make sure that every worker has at least a modest and decent standard of living.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Adams Center on the University of Montana campus, in Missoula, Mont. Sanders spoke about economic inequality and the failings of the country’s health care system Saturday as he sought to rally Montanans to vote for a singing cowboy trying to become the state’s first Democrat in the U.S. House in two decades. (Tommy Martino /The Missoulian via AP)
Working people’s productivity has risen by over 70 percent in the last four decades, according to the Raise the Wage Act; however, workers’ wages have only increased by 11 percent over the same time-period. For Blacks, who tend to be undereducated and less skilled, raising the minimum wage according to data from the Economic Policy Institute researchers Wilson and Rodgers would be akin to leveling a portion of the playing field.
“While racial discrimination was the largest single factor driving growing differences in the pay of White and Black workers between 1979 and 2015, increased overall wage inequality consistently played a role as well,” the Wilson & Rodgers report concluded. “Because Black workers tend to cluster lower in the wage distribution than White workers, and because between 1979 and 2015 hourly wages grew most in the higher parts of the wage distribution, this rise in overall wage inequality mechanically separated Black and White workers’ wages.”
The Raise the Wage Act raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 and would be indexed to median wage growth thereafter. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009. The 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.
“If Republicans and President Trump are truly serious about standing up for workers – they’ll join us in fighting for a $15 minimum wage, which will give a raise to nearly half of all working Americans. Senate Democrats have been working on putting together a bold, sharp-edged economic agenda, and this bill will be a part of that,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at the May 15 press conference releasing the Act. A total of 30 Democratic Senators, and zero Republicans, said they were in support of the bill leaving the prospect of passage unlikely. “We’re going to continue fighting tooth and nail for this – because a livable wage is about more than just numbers; it’s about respect for our workers and economic justice for those in the middle-class and those striving to get there.”
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.