Denouncing the current federal minimum wage as a "starvation wage" which never should have been permitted to be stagnant for the past decade, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was joined Wednesday by several congressional Democrats in introducing legislation to raise the wage over the next five years.
"It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour." —Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)The bicameral Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, where it's stood since 2009, to $15 by 2024. The proposal would also bar employers from paying tipped workers below the minimum wage and stipulate future pay increases for low-wage workers to keep up with median wage growth and cost of living.
The House bill has 181 co-sponsors, while 31 Democrats joined Sanders in co-sponsoring the Senate version.
"Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was 'radical.'" said Sanders in a statement. "But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take 'no' for an answer. It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour."
The grassroots movement the senator referred to was the group Fight for $15, which began its fight for a minimum wage increase in 2012 and has since grown into a global movement in hundreds of cities. Fight for $15 celebrated the bill's introduction, with members gathering in Washington, D.C. as the legislation was proposed.
The national minimum wage is $7.25. It's a poverty wage, and it hasn't been raised in over 9 years. House+Senate Democrats just introduced a federal $15 minimum wage and we're going to fight to make it a reality!
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) January 16, 2019
Workers from St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans are in DC today to introduce the federal minimum wage bill.
Every worker deserves $15. Change is coming!
Show your support here https://t.co/r6eWJZ7NWS#RaiseTheWage #Fightfor15 pic.twitter.com/sX59B1Ynsz
— Show Me $15 (@Show_Me15) January 16, 2019
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The movement has gained traction in recent years, amid growing anger over a federal minimum wage that won't allow a worker to afford the rent on a two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country. In just 22 out of more than 3,000 counties in the U.S., according to a report last year by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), would a minimum wage worker be able to afford a one-bedroom rental apartment.
Sanders was joined by progressive Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Ill.) in sponsoring the legislation, as well as far more centrist Democrats including Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.)—leading Mother Jones reporter Kara Voght to note that the fight to raise the minimum wage has officially gone mainstream.
Notable who the "who" is on this bill:
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Rep. Mark Pocan, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair
Stephanie Murphy, member of the Blue Dog Democrats.
$15 minumum wage is mainstream, y'all. pic.twitter.com/CI4MGikzoO
— Kara Voght (@karavoght) January 14, 2019
Pocan pointed out that cities and states have already raised local minimum wages to ensure workers can live on their salaries—and implored his colleagues in Congress to catch up.
"While some cities and states have led on this issue, we must raise the wage everywhere—from Madison, Wisconsin, to Mobile, Alabama—to ensure that every American worker can succeed," he said. "Every member of Congress should recognize the urgent need to raise the wage, and if they support a salary of only $15,080 per year, they should be forced to live on it."
Sanders and some of the bill's co-sponsors held a press conference on the new legislation Wednesday: