U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and 21 other Senators in announcing the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15. By phasing in a pay raise for tens of millions of workers, the legislation will raise living standards, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and provide a much-needed boost to our economy.
“If you work full time in America, you should be able to support yourself and your family without worrying about putting a roof over your head or food on your table,” said Senator Van Hollen. “But for too many Marylanders, the minimum wage is not a living wage. Wages have not kept up with inflation or worker productivity, but the Raise the Wage Act would finally give working families a much needed boost.”
Since 1968, the minimum wage – currently only $7.25 an hour – has lost over 30 percent of its purchasing power due to inflation. After increasing it gradually to $15 by 2024, the minimum wage would be indexed based on the annual percentage increase of the median hourly wage of all workers. Raising it nationally would also ensure every community is on an equal playing field.
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.
This 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.
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), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are original co-sponsors of the legislation.
A summary of the bill is available here.