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

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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