Democrats in the House of Representatives have introduced a new bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2024. The bill also plans to remove the “subminimum” wages for tipped workers, workers with disabilities and young workers.
The House Committee on Education and Labor voted along party lines to pass the bill 28-20. This sets the bill up for a larger vote on the House floor in the coming weeks.
The passing of this bill is indicative of increased political awareness for the increased minimum wage movement. The issue has been championed by progressive Democrats. This issue is expected to feature widely in the 2020 presidential campaign.
“After nearly 10 years with no increase in the federal minimum wage, minimum-wage workers have suffered a 17 percent pay cut due to inflation,” said Chairman Bobby Scott, D-Va. to NPR. Scott has introduced the Raise the Wage Act. “The result is that there is no place in America where a full-time worker who is paid the current federal minimum wage can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.”
The federal minimum wage has stayed at $7.25 for a decade, regardless of inflation’s effect on the value of the dollar. Since 2012, the Service Employees International Union has advocated for a raise for workers through their “Fight for $15” campaign.
Amazon has also supported the bill. Last year the company committed to paying its employees a $15 minimum wage and is currently lobbying Congress for a higher federal minimum wage. Several other companies have followed suit, including Target, who hopes to raise their minimum to $15 by 2020.
“After we increased our minimum wage to $15 an hour, our employees told us they were having an easier time providing for their families and meeting their financial needs. That’s why we continue to encourage other companies and policymakers to join us in this fight,” said Amazon’s vice president of public policy, Brian Huseman, in a statement.
Republicans are concerned about job losses surrounding the raise the Wage Act.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. believes that the bill would cause, “significant job losses for hourly workers around the country.” Foxx believes the legislation is, “blatantly socialist” and called the act, “a foolish policy proposal. At worst, it’s an intentionally dishonest political stunt.”
Economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Arindrajit Dube believes the effect on jobs would be minimal.
“I think the weight of the evidence to date suggests the employment effects from minimum-wage increases in the U.S. have been pretty small—much smaller than the wage increases,” said Dube. “Thirty years ago, most economists expressed confidence in surveys that minimum wages had a clear negative impact on jobs. That is no longer true today.”
The bill is also expected to face hurdles in the Republican controlled Senate. However, more than 190 Democrats have already signed onto the bill in the House, almost reaching the 218 thresholds for a simple majority to guarantee passage. “One job should be enough to live in this country,” said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich.