Progressive lawmakers this week formally launched an effort to increase the US minimum wage, introducing legislation to gradually raise it from $7.25 to $15 an hour.
The proposed increase is much larger than those in the recent past, but supporters argue it is warranted because it has been more than a decade since the wage was lifted, and the current minimum wage is too little for life in the United States.
When President Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal earlier this month, few were surprised by the plan’s hefty price tag or sweeping scope.
The move, backed by leading Democrats including left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, establishes the fight for higher wages as a top priority for the new administration, potentially leading to one of Washington’s boldest adjustments in US social and labor policy in decades.
Sanders, a former presidential candidate, called the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour a “starvation wage” as he unveiled the proposal for an increase in Congress.
The senator said he hopes Republicans “will understand the severity of the crisis,” but added that Democrats should be prepared to enact the policy on a narrow party-line vote.
The bill would put the United States on par with a growing number of states and cities that have already enacted the hike at the urging of the “Fight for $15” movement launched by fast-food workers in the early 2010s.
The US minimum wage was first enacted in 1938 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms.
The measure has been periodically increased since then, most recently in 2007, when Congress lifted it gradually from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, which would equal a $15,000 annual salary.
Chief executive of Seattle Hospitality Group and the co-author of Seattle’s 2014 wage hike, Howard Wright said companies should be able to raise the wage as long as it is done gradually.