Congress Introduces Legislation to Raise Federal Minimum Wage

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I. Vt., and Patty Murray, D. Wash., and Reps. Bobby Scott, D. Va., and Keith Ellison, D. Minn., on Thursday introduced the Raise The Wage Act of 2017, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, gradually eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped working people, and sunset the ability of employers to pay working people with a disability a subminimum wage. It would also index the minimum wage to median wages.

“We welcome the introduction of the Raise the Wage Act,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “Working people are long overdue for a raise, and the Raise the Wage Act is an important step in combatting the troubling inequality that continues to rise in our nation, hitting communities of color among the hardest.”

Thursday also marks a decade since the last federal minimum wage hike, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, was signed into law by President George W. Bush. The subminimum wage for tipped working people – which is rooted in post-abolition racist attitudes – has been frozen even longer, remaining stalled at $2.13 per hour for more than a quarter century.

According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, enacting the Raise the Wage Act would directly lift the wages of 22.5 million workers and would disproportionately impact people of color, and particularly women of color, who are overrepresented in minimum wage and other low-wage jobs.

“It is unconscionable that our federal minimum wage is so low that working people who put in an honest day’s work are unable to sustain themselves and their families while the wealthy and big corporations continue to do better and better. Congress should move swiftly to enact this legislation,” Henderson said in his statement on Thursday.

An October 2015 report from The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality noted that raising the minimum wage was a core demand at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and remains essential for advancing civil and human rights today. Read the report here.