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It’s been 12 years since Congress raised the minimum wage


Congress will take an embarrassing step on Saturday: a dozen years without even an increase in the federal minimum wage.

The wage floor set by the federal government remains at just $ 7.25 an hour, well below a living wage all over the country. A worker earning this salary on a full-time schedule would bring home an annual salary of only $ 15,000, barely enough to cover the basic expenses of a single person, let alone a family.

The last time the federal minimum wage increased was July 24, 2009, seven months after the start of President Barack Obama’s first term. It was one of a series of hikes incorporated into a war funding program passed two years earlier and signed by then President George W. Bush.

Democrats have tried several times to raise the federal floor since then, only to be blocked by Republicans in the House or the Senate or both. Over the course of a decade, Democrats have steadily increased their target wages from $ 10.10 an hour to the current $ 15. A $ 15 payroll has already passed the Democratic-controlled House, but has not overcome a GOP obstruction in the Senate.

$ 7.25 an hour translates to an annual salary of only $ 15,000 for a full-time worker.

Meanwhile, more and more states, including some politically dominated by Republicans, have adopted their own local increases. Today, 30 states and the District of Columbia have more generous minimum wages than those set by Congress. The federal minimum of $ 7.25 prevails in the other 20 states that do not impose a higher one.

The union-backed Fight for $ 15 campaign staged a series of protests on Tuesday to draw attention to Saturday’s questionable anniversary. The group released a statement attributed to Taiwanna Milligan, a McDonald’s employee in Charleston, South Carolina, who said she was taking a day of strike action to mark the occasion.

“The last time the minimum wage rose here in South Carolina, my 14-year-old was in diapers,” Milligan said.

South Carolina is one of five states, all located in the South, that have no state minimum wage. It’s also one of the few states where Republicans have passed pre-emption laws that ban local increases passed by cities or counties.

This means that any increase to help Milligan would likely have to come from Congress and the White House.


Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Senatorial Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) And other GOP members have thwarted Democrats’ efforts to get Congress to raise the minimum wage again.

Some Republicans have shown a willingness to discuss the issue. Senators Mitt Romney (Utah) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) Have proposed raising the federal floor to $ 10 over five years while forcing employers to use e-Verify to crack down on undocumented workers.

Top Democrats have criticized the proposal for the lower salary target and the e-Verify measure, although Romney previously said he was working with centrist Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (R) on a bipartisan deal.

The Democrats’ latest proposal would raise the minimum wage to $ 15 over five years and eliminate the so-called peak minimum wage in seven years. Under the current rules for tipped workers, employers can pay as little as $ 2.13 an hour as long as the tips allow the worker to reach at least $ 7.25.

Democrats hold a 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote. It is not a majority large enough to exceed the threshold of 60 votes created by the systematic obstruction of the Senate. Democrats were hoping to push through a minimum wage hike in a party line vote using a process known as budget reconciliation, but so far they have failed.

So far, they have encountered two obstacles to this plan: a decision by the parliamentarian of the Senate that an increase in the minimum wage do not pass the rally with reconciliation rules and insufficient support for $ 15 within their own caucus. Some moderates still haven’t bought into the increase, fearing it will hit business owners too hard.

In March, eight Democratic senators voted against a proposal to include a minimum wage hike of $ 15 in a coronavirus relief program. Among them was Sinema, who went viral for her thumbs down during his vote on the floor of the Senate.

President Joe Biden has said he wants to sign a $ 15 minimum wage bill and has already decided to raise the wage floor on his own, albeit in a limited fashion. Biden signed an executive order shortly after taking office, ordering federal agencies to implement a minimum wage of $ 15 for workers employed on federal contracts.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Labor released the proposed rule that would achieve this goal. Rather than proceeding with a gradual implementation, the measure would require companies under new federal contracts to pay at least $ 15 an hour as of January 30, 2022. Future increases would be linked to an inflation index, of so that the wage floor adjusts to the cost of living, and the tip minimum wage for entrepreneurs would be abolished by 2024.

Jessica Looman, acting administrator of the Wages and Hours division of the Ministry of Labor, said in a statement that the increase “would respect the dignity of work” and ensure that the federal government does not guarantee jobs that pay wages. of misery.

The new wage floor would apply to workers in concessions, maintenance, construction and other fields who are employed in federal buildings and on federal lands. The measure is due for a public comment period before it can be implemented later this year.

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