WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 15, 2019) — Congress has not raised the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour in more than 10 years, eroding the buying power of millions of full-time American workers and forcing many of them to live in poverty.
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on the “Raise the Wage Act of 2019” (HR 582). It would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2024 and index it so future increases would be automatic. Importantly, the bill also would gradually eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been stuck at a disgraceful $2.13/hour since 1991.
All seven of Washington’s Democratic members of Congress have co-sponsored HR 582. But business lobbying groups are pushing hard to either weaken the bill with amendments or force a Motion to Recommit (MTRC), which would send the bill back to committee for amendment. The AFL-CIO is strongly urging all U.S. Representatives to vote NO on weakening amendments and MTRC, and to vote YES on final passage of HR 582.
The bill would have little effect in Washington state, which has no subminimum tipped wage and is already scheduled to increase its state minimum wage at a pace that would put it at or near $15 by 2024.
Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would benefit 41 million American workers and begin to address the growing crisis of wage inequality. More than half of the workers who would benefit are adults between the ages of 25 and 54, and nearly two-thirds work full time. More than half (56 percent) are women, nearly 30 percent of whom have children.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, by 2024 a single adult without children will need at least $31,200 ($15 per hour on an annual basis) to achieve an adequate standard of living in all parts of the country. Allowing for a lower regional minimum wage, as some have suggested, would lock millions of workers into poverty, and would be especially harmful to people of color and women who would benefit most from a minimum wage increase.
Raising the minimum wage to $15 has the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans, and the benefits far exceed any potential cost.
Multiple studies have shown that modest increases in the minimum wage have not resulted in significant job loss, and the income boost experienced by low-income families benefits the country overall by reducing both poverty and income inequality.
EDITOR’S NOTE — Republicans in Washington often claim that the state’s higher minimum wage puts Washington at a competitive disadvantage with lower-wage states. If they truly believe that, they should support HR 582 to level the playing field and make Washington “competitive” again. Right?