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'We Must Deliver on This Issue': Jayapal Vows to Fight for $15 Minimum Wage

The Congressional Progressive Caucus chair said that despite the Senate failing to include the wage boost in the relief bill, the fight for $15 must go on.

Rep. Pramila Jayapa (D-Wash.) is seen on the House steps of the Capitol during a vote on the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act, on Friday, February 26, 2021.

Rep. Pramila Jayapa (D-Wash.) is seen on the House steps of the Capitol during a vote on the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act, on Friday, February 26, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The Congressional Progressive Caucus on Saturday welcomed the passage in the Senate of the coronavirus relief bill—calling it "a truly progressive and bold package"—but lamented that it did not include a proposed provision to boost the federal minimum wage and vowed to "continue our pressure on the Senate to pass $15."

"The minimum wage remains essential policy and we must deliver on this issue," CPC chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement.

"We call on the president to lay out his plan in the coming days for providing a desperately needed raise for 32 million Americans," said Jayapal.

The Democratic congresswoman's statement came after the Senate's 50-49 vote along party lines to pass the $1.9 American Rescue Plan following a marathon session. The bill provides one-time $1,400 checks to most Americans, an extension of unemployment benefits, and an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), among other relief measures.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) caused hours of delay after bucking his own party on a proposal for unemployment benefits, with that opposition leading to a less generous compromise provision. Manchin was also among a small handful of Democrats who voted last week against Sen. Bernie Sanders' effort to reattach a $15 wage provision to the bill.

Sanders (I-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, forced a vote on the wage boost provision last week after the Senate parliamentarian said it violated rules regarding a reconciliation bill. The reconciliation process allowed the Senate to pass the relief bill with a simple majority.  

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, also expressed disappointment with aspects of the Senate-passed relief bill, including the absence of the minimum wage increase and the reduction of weekly unemployment benefits.

In addition to working on "comprehensive reform of the unemployment compensation system in this country," Dixon said that Congress and the Biden administration must "find a way to pass the Raise the Wage Act and deliver a much-needed increase in the federal minimum wage and elimination of subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers, and workers with disabilities. Sixty percent of workers on the pandemic frontlines would have benefitted from the passage of this act."

"We cannot truly recover from these crises unless frontline workers have better wages and policymakers eliminate the discriminatory subminimum wages that deprive so many workers—particularly women of color and people with disabilities—of financial stability," she said.

Once the House passes the bill, Dixon said that Congress must "immediately turn its attention to the continued pressing needs of workers throughout the country."

The House is expected to take up the bill this week.

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