NELP Applauds Legislation to Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Current $7.25 Rate Leaves Workers and Families Struggling

Washington, D.C.—In response to the introduction of federal legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, NELP Executive Director Christine Owens gave the following statement: 

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“It’s long past time to raise the federal minimum wage, and today, more than 180 members of the House of Representatives and 31 members of the Senate took an important step toward making that happen.

“NELP applauds Representatives Robert C. ‘Bobby’ Scott (D-VA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for their leadership on this crucial bill.

“For 10 years now, the federal minimum has been stuck at $7.25 an hour, and the tipped-worker minimum wage has been frozen at $2.13 for nearly three decades. No one remotely in touch with reality believes it’s possible to get by, much less provide for a family, on $7.25 an hour, no matter where in the country they live. Cost-of-living data show that in all 50 states, workers will soon need $15 an hour or more just to afford basic living expenses.

“Twenty-one states follow the federal $7.25 rate. Unfortunately for the people working low-paid jobs in 17 of those states, lawmakers there have enacted preemption laws prohibiting cities and counties from adopting higher minimum wages. In those preempted states, workers must instead look to Congress to raise the wage floor.

“The federal minimum wage is supposed to provide a meaningful standard to ensure that workers everywhere in the country are paid at least an adequate wage to meet their basic needs. But with the federal minimum wage stuck for 10 years at a poverty-level $7.25 an hour, it’s falling far short in that regard. Instead, it’s being used to suppress workers’ wages.

“The American people believe in the value of work—and that workers should be valued. America needs a fair minimum wage that working people can live on and support a family on. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 will finally help bring the federal minimum wage into the 21st century.”

Background

More than 360 organizations have signed onto a letter in support of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019. Read the letter.

If enacted, the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $8.55 an hour this year and increase it over the next five years until it reaches $15 in 2024;
  • After 2024, adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with growth in the typical worker’s wages;
  • Phase out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 since 1991;
  • Sunset the much-criticized practice of employers paying workers with disabilities a subminimum wage through certificates issued by the U.S. Labor Department; and
  • Phase out the subminimum wage for workers under the age of 20.

The Act would directly or indirectly lift the wages of 41.5 million working people—29.2 percent of the wage-earning workforce—and generate $144 billion in additional income for families who need it most, including 23.1 million women and 4.5 million single parents, according to the most recent research estimates from the Economic Policy Institute.

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The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org. Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews. 

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