‘Raise The Wage’ Bill Gets Support, While The Fight for $15 Continues

Isaiah J. Poole

Several progressive organizations are lining up today in support of the Raise the Wage bill introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-Va.).

That bill would raise the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, to $12 an hour by 2020. That is far less audacious than the demands of the Fight for $15 movement that has organized strikes in Washington and other major cities around the country. Nonetheless, a number of key organizations have embraced the Murray-Scott bill.

“With the economy still tilting toward low-paying jobs, the nation needs bolder action to improve jobs across the bottom of the economy,” said National Employment Law Project director Christine Owens. “By calling for a $12.00 minimum wage, the Raise the Wage Act would deliver raises to 38 million Americans – 10 million more than past proposals – and finally catch the minimum wage back up to its level 45 years ago when we had strong growth and low unemployment.”

An Economic Policy Institute fact sheet says that an increase to $12 an hour by 2020 “would equal a modest 10 percent increase from the federal minimum wage at its peak value in 1968, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most commonly used measure of inflation and Congressional Budget Office inflation projections. A 10 percent raise is modest, indeed, given that today’s low-wage workers are older, better educated, and more productive than their counterparts in 1968.”

The percentage increase, EPI adds, would amount to an annual increase that is less than the average of all minimum wage increases since 1961.

“Families across the country too often juggle jobs, or multiple jobs, with unpredictable and unstable scheduling practices in an effort to sustain their families. But they are held back by employers who are unwilling to share the wealth created by workers,” said JoEllen Chernow of the Center for Popular Democracy. “We welcome the Raise the Wage Act as an important step to increase workers’ wages.”

“Voters in many states have approved ballot initiatives—by wide margins—to raise their state minimum wages. Congress must follow their example and give Americans the long-overdue raise they deserve,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Zirkin’s statement noted that 32 percent of women, 37 percent of African Americans, and 40 percent of Latinos in the workforce would benefit directly from the Raise the Wage Act.

The bill would also lead to the elimination of the tipped minimum wage, a key goal of Restaurant Opportunities United’s director, Saru Jayaraman. “If we get this passed, the federal tipped minimum wage – which has been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991 – will increase for the first time in almost a quarter century, going a long way toward ensuring restaurant workers are able to support themselves and put food on the table for their families,” she wrote in a statement.

The Center for American Progress included in its commentary an assessment of the impact of a $12 minimum wage on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (a k a “food stamp”) spending. Low wages cost taxpayers an estimated $152 billion a year in food, housing and health subsidies that the workers need in order to survive. Raising the minimum wage could save taxpayers $5.3 billion a year in SNAP spending alone, according to CAP.

Meanwhile, the Fight for $15 organizers are not letting up on their campaigns for a true living wage.

One of the next efforts of the Fight for $15 movement is scheduled to take place at the site of the McDonald’s Corporation shareholders meeting in Oak Brook, Ill. on May 19-21. Several grassroots organizations in the region are signing up buses of workers to make the trip.

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