Dems Try Again To Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s what House and Senate Democrats did on May 25 by reintroducing legislation to raise the federal minimum wage, in steps, to $15 an hour by 2024.

Whether they’ll get anywhere is unlikely in the GOP-run Congress. The last time they tried, as an amendment to a budget bill in the last Congress, they got shot down on a party-line House vote in 2015. And that measure would have raised the wage in steps only to $12 hourly.

The new  Raise The Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024 and would be indexed to the median wage growth thereafter, a fact sheet says. “The increases would restore the minimum wage to 1968 levels, when the value was at its peak,” it adds.

The measure would also gradually raise the tipped minimum wage, now $2.13 hourly, to parity with the regular minimum. The tipped wage has been flat since 1991. And the measure would phase out the youth subminimum wage and raise wages for disabled workers, who now under special legislation wind up earning as little as a penny an hour, one solon said.

Overall, the Dems claimed at a May 25 news conference, the measure, if passed, would raise wages for more than 41 million workers, or 30 percent of the U.S. workforce.

“In the most robust recovery in history, we created millions of jobs and brought our economy back from recession. However, wages haven’t risen to keep pace, and many Americans are working two, three jobs just to make ends meet,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

Other House sponsors include Reps. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., top Democrat on the GOP-run House Education and the Workforce Committee.

“The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in eight years, and it’s time for Congress to raise it and help ensure that those who work full time can make it in America…Today’s minimum of $7.25 would need to be increased by more than 50 percent to match the purchasing power the minimum wage had half a century ago,” added Hoyer.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., top Democrat on the Senate Labor Committee, noted her state – like 28 others and D.C. – has raised its minimum wage far above the federal figure of $7.25 an hour. Murray and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., are lead sponsors of the $15 wage.

“I believe we need a $15 federal minimum wage to bring that progress nationwide,” said Murray. “It’s the right thing to do for working parents, for the nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers who are women, and as I’ve heard from business owners in our state, it’s the right thing to do for our local economies.”

“It is a national disgrace that millions of full-time workers are living in poverty and millions more are forced to work two or three jobs just to pay their bills,” added Sanders. “In the year 2017, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage.”

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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