By STEPHON JOHNSON
Amsterdam News Staff
The House of Representatives passed a new minimum wage law, but it might not make it to the Senate floor.
This month, the House passed the Raise the Wage Act looking to raise the United States’ minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. According to the legislation, raising the minimum wage to $15 would lift over one million Americans out of poverty and give close to 20 million working women a raise narrowing the gender wage gap. According to studies by the Economic Policy Institute and the CBO respectively, 33 million or 27 million American workers could see a wage increase.
New York State Congressman Adriano Espaillat said that he wants what New York and other states have accomplished to be the law of the land.
“After more than a decade without an increase in the federal minimum wage, the longest stretch in U.S. history, hard-working Americans deserve a raise,” stated Espaillat. “I am glad New York led the way in increasing our state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, and I hope this measure will become law so the rest of the nation can join us, because there is no place in America today where a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour can afford the basic essentials.”
Interim 32BJ SEIU President Kyle Bragg said that the House passing this bill is a result of work by people such as the recently deceased Héctor Figueroa.
“This remarkable victory is the result of years of the hard work and courage from millions of airport workers, fast food workers, cleaners, health care workers and many more, who took action to demand a $15 minimum wage,” stated Bragg. “Héctor Figueroa spent his life fighting so that low-wage workers could be paid a living wage and be able to take care of their families with dignity.”
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the majority of sub-minimum wage jobs that rely on tips are women and disproportionately women of color and immigrants. Workers that rely on tips are more likely to live in poverty and are more than twice as likely to report sexual harassment. According to a study by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 90 percent of female restaurant workers experience sexual harassment.
Vermont State Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders noted that an idea that’s been the butt of jokes for years could become a reality for all.
“Four years ago when I first introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it was considered an impossible dream,” stated Sanders. “… Today, I am proud to say that a $15 minimum wage has gone from laughable to inevitable. Seven states and over 40 cities have passed $15 minimum wage laws.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell isn’t too keen on bringing the bill to the Senate floor. The conservative firebrand told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, “It would cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1 and 3 million jobs lost. We don’t need to lose jobs. We don’t have enough jobs now. There are more people looking for work than jobs that are available. That’s how hot the economy is.”
Sanders said that he sent a letter to McConnell challenging him to bring the minimum wage legislation to a vote as soon as possible.
“If Senator McConnell wants to vote against that bill and explain to the people of Kentucky why he believes a $7.25 minimum wage is acceptable to him that is his prerogative,” stated Sanders. “But he should not deny the rest of the Senate the opportunity to vote for this bill and increase wages for 40 million Americans. No one who has a job in America should be living in poverty. Let the Senate vote.”
The U.S. has had a federal minimum wage since 1938 and was last raised in 2009 (to $7.25). Tipped workers have a minimum wage of $2.13. It’s been that way since 1991.
The National Black Worker Center Project praised the House for the bill’s passing citing it as integral to uplifting Black women.
“No matter where you come from, we all work hard to provide food for our children, pay the rent or mortgage, and care for our loved ones,” read NBWCP’s statement. “An increased minimum wage that helps Black workers feed their families is a powerful action that helps address economic inequality.
“Increasing the minimum wage nationwide is critical for Black workers who are overrepresented in states with no minimum wage laws like Louisiana and Mississippi, and states that have the same $7.25 minimum wage as the federal government like North Carolina,” NBWCP’s statement concluded.