The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since July 24, 2009—for eight years. Thanks to Republicans in Congress and the White House, it won’t be going up any time soon, and though many states have raised their minimum wages, 21 states remain stuck at $7.25 an hour. That’s a poverty wage. A new analysis from the National Employment Law Project shows what the Democrats’ Raise the Wage Act of 2017—which would take the minimum wage up to $15 by 2024, a gradual raise by any standard except the Republican “no raise ever” standard—would do for low-wage workers:
- 20.7 million workers would see pay raises in the 21 states whose minimum wages are stuck at $7.25.
- Fully half of the 41.5 million workers who would see pay increases are in the 21 states stuck at $7.25.
- In the 13 other states with minimum wages of less than $9, nearly 13 million more workers also would see their hourly pay rise.
- Of all the workers nationwide who would receive raises, 8 in 10 are in the 34 states with the lowest minimum wages.
- In 19 of the 21 states at $7.25, more than 30 percent of wage-earners would benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024; the highest share is in Mississippi, with 44.4 percent.
Republicans want these workers stuck at poverty wages. There’s no other serious explanation for their refusal to raise the minimum wage over the past eight years.
This blog was originally published at DailyKos on July 24, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at DailyKos.
Congressional Democrats have unveiled their strongest minimum wage plan yet. And while Republicans will block this, it’s important to get the word out: this is what we’d be moving toward if Democrats were making the laws.
Their legislation, dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing it from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $9.20 an hour once it’s passed and then adding about a dollar a year for seven years until it gets to $15. It would rise automatically after that as the country’s median wages rose.
The bill would eventually do away with the separate tipped minimum wage, which currently allows those who earn tips as part of their compensation to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employers. It would increase that rate to $3.15 and then gradually raise it so it would eventually reach $15 an hour.
Seven years is slow, but otherwise, this plan checks some important boxes—in particular, raising the tipped minimum wage and setting it so that the minimum wage rises automatically rather than requiring a fight each and every time it’s raised. If Democrats had done that the last time they raised the minimum wage, it wouldn’t still be stuck at $7.25 an hour nearly eight years after its last increase, years during which it’s lost nearly 10 percent of its purchasing power. The Raise the Wage Act would also ensure that people with disabilities are paid the full minimum wage.
Every single time you talk about lawmakers backing a $15 minimum wage, you have to remember that it’s low-wage workers who pushed $15 into the realm of possibility, organizing around a number nearly $5 higher than the high end of Democratic proposals at the time. Their organizing has changed the discussion—and in two states and several large cities, it’s helped change the law.
We need to change the Congress, though, before we’ll see nationwide progress.
This article originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on April 26, 2017. Reprinted with permission.
Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.