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

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work