How Bernie Sanders hopes to make the $15 minimum wage a reality — whatever happens with Joe Biden's stimulus
- Democrats are introducing the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
- An increase to the minimum wage is also part of Biden's stimulus, but Democrats want to make sure it gets done.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders says they'll try and pass a raise through budget reconciliation or a senate majority vote.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
"This is not a radical idea," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Tuesday. "This is what the American people want."
He was referring, of course, to a $15 federal minimum wage. And if he has his way as the incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee, it will be a reality, whatever happens with President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal.
Biden's plan includes an increase to a $15 federal minimum wage, but, as Insider's Joseph Zeballos-Roig reports, that package currently faces an uphill battle with Republicans — and measures like the minimum wage increase could end up getting cut.
Sanders said the minimum wage needs to be raised to at least $15 an hour, and he hopes his Republican colleagues will join him in understanding the severity of the crisis their working constituents face. But he made clear that he won't let their opposition prevent him.
"My hope is that we will bring Republicans on board. But, we must understand at this moment, the issue of starvation wages is a national emergency," Sanders said.
Sanders was speaking on a press call with other Democrats from both congress and the senate who introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
The call also included Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, who said the act would raise wages for 32 million workers, around half of whom are essential workers. He was joined by Sanders as well as Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). Scott highlighted that the Raise the Wage Act will proceed as a separate bill from the stimulus.
Doubling down on reconciliation
Sanders doubled down on saying that budget reconciliation could be used to pass an increase to minimum wage — that would help Democrats evade a potential filibuster of the legislation.
Sanders said he "cannot simply take no for an answer," and that he will use either reconciliation or a simple senate majority vote to pass an increase to the minimum wage.
The representatives were joined by Fran Marion, a McDonald's worker and labor activist, and Mike Draper, the owner of Raygun and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Marion emphasized the impact that a wage increase could have for her family, while Draper spoke to how raising his wages has helped with staff retention. One concern often cited by critics of the minimum wage is the impact it would have on business and employment; however, as Insider previously reported, an increase would likely barely hurt business while transforming many workers' lives.
Sanders also said that a raise in the minimum wage could have a very positive impact on the federal deficit, citing research on how much lower wages cost public safety net programs.
It would also have an important impact for marginalized workers: The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reports that 31% of Black Americans and 26% of Latino workers would receive a pay increase under the plan. And 59% of women workers would also benefit.
The act would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, which means workers wouldn't see that full bump for several years. Under the plan, the minimum wage would increase from $7.25 to $9.50 in 2021. The tipped wage and subminimum wages will also gradually increase up to $15 in 2025.
"If I were the dictator of the world I'd go further with this," Sanders said of the time that would elapse before the $15 wage is implemented. "We are where we are right now."
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