Two congressional Democrats introduced Thursday a bill that would raise the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 by 2020 and outlaw sub-minimum wage for tipped employees. The two promoters of the bill are Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District and Patty Murray, a Washington state’s senator.
The initial plan was to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10.10 to keep up with inflation, and boost the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the current federal minimum wage.
Sen. Murray argued that outlawing the tipped minimum wage was more than necessary to reduce the uncertainty tipped workers face in an unstable economy. The Senator from Washington believes that the move would shield this category of employees from the ups and downs of the economy and the daily stress to live on an unpredictable hourly wage. She also mentioned the Washington state as a source of inspiration for the new proposal.
Washington was also an inspiration in increasing the regular minimum wage because it has one of the highest wages in the U.S. with its $9.47 per hour. Sen. Murray said she was a strong supporter of the nationwide efforts to increase the level of the minimum wage and make the life of families that do live on minimum wage more bearable.
David Cooper, an economist from the Economic Policy Institute and a drafter of the new bill, said that a $10.10 hourly wage would be the level of the minimum wage if it would have kept up with inflation over the last 50 years. Mr. Cooper described the $10.10 wage as the minimum “possible threshold”.
However, he said that aiming for such a threshold would have been unfair for workers because their standard of living would have stayed the same in the last 50 years despite a strong economic growth and significantly increased worker productivity.
The supporters of the bill are aware that the Republican majority in Congress would not even give a chance to their proposal. But they believe that federal minimum wage should be further debated since the minimum wage needs to be returned to its level from 1968, when inflation was at its peak.
Mr. Cooper argued that such return would narrow the difference between low-paid workers and regular workers that usually get on average $17 per hour, which is the current level of the median hourly wage in the U.S. A $12 wage would boost minimum wage to 54 percent of the current federal median wage.
Nevertheless, critics fear that increasing federal minimum wage would lead to job losses and many businesses to shut down. But reality contradicts such scenarios and not only in the Washington state. Many states decided to hike minimum wages from their federal level. As a result, last year the states that boosted wages experienced a stronger job growth than their peers that failed to make the move. Additionally, doomsday-scenarios involving Seattle after raising its hourly minimum wage to $15 failed to materialize.
“Places are pushing minimum wages into territory that we haven’t done before, and the sky hasn’t fallen,”
Mr. Cooper added. He also said that the fast-food workers’ Fight for $15 movement was also a great source of inspiration for the $12 wage proposal because it managed to raise awareness on how low the pay can be in some industries.
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