The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sanders, Top Democrats Introduce Bill Raising Minimum Wage to $15 by 2025


In a press conference today, incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined incoming Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.), House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) to announce the introduction of legislation raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 in five steps over the next four years. Beginning in 2026, the federal minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth. According to an independent analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the Raise the Wage Act would increase wages for nearly 32 million Americans, including roughly a third of all Black workers and a quarter of all Latino workers.

"Let's be clear. The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. No person in America can make it on $8, $10, or $12 an hour. In the United States of America a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. We must raise the minimum wage to a living wage--at least $15 an hour. And when we do that, not only will we be lifting millions of Americans out of poverty, we will be providing a raise to over 33 million workers," said Senator Sanders. "We can no longer tolerate millions of workers not being able to afford to feed their families or pay the rent. The time for talk is over. No more excuses. It is time for Congress to act to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour."

"Throughout this pandemic, Democrats and Republicans alike have joined together in rightly calling our frontline workers 'heroes.' But despite their tireless work and the risk of COVID exposure, too many of these workers are paid wages so low, they can't afford to pay for even their most basic needs. And because of systemic inequities and discrimination, workers of color, and in particular, women of color, are much more likely to be paid poverty-level wages," said Senator Murray, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. "Democrats are asking for $15 an hour, because no one working 40 hours a week, should be making $15,000 a year. If we're committed to an economy that works for everyone, we need one fair, livable wage for everyone--and that includes workers with disabilities, tipped workers and youth workers. We won't accept carve-outs and we won't accept leaving anyone behind."

"Americans working 40 hours a week should be able to put food on the table and a roof over their families' heads, but with the minimum wage stuck at $7.25, far too many are working hard and still in poverty," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. "Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is one step Congress should take right now, particularly with the COVID-19 crisis stretching families' resources further than ever. I am happy to move forward with this group to make it happen and give the American people a raise."

"This pandemic has pushed millions more Americans into poverty and we need to ensure that every working American is able to support themselves and their families," said Senator Gillibrand. "Passing the Raise the Wage Act is more critical now than ever. Finally delivering a $15 minimum wage will benefit workers by lifting their families out of poverty and it will strengthen our economic recovery. We must keep fighting until all hardworking Americans can access basic economic security and a fair shot in our economy."

"My colleagues and I have introduced this legislation raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour because Georgia's working families are struggling to pay the bills, and they deserve a livable wage for an honest day's work," Senator Ossoff said.

"The coronavirus pandemic and economic crises have pulled back the veil on the unconscionable economic disparities that working women, low-income families and other vulnerable communities have faced for decades," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "By re-introducing the Chair Bobby Scott's Raise the Wage Act, which passed on a bipartisan basis in the previous Congress, the Democratic Congress is taking another strong and long-needed step to honor the dignity, dedication and contributions of millions of hard-working Americans. This legislation is a key part of Democrats' commitment to not only recover from these crises, but to Build Back Better - and to do so in a way that advances justice, prosperity and equality for all Americans."

"Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $7.25 federal minimum wage was economically and morally indefensible. Now, the pandemic is highlighting the gross imbalance between the value of our workers and the wages they are paid. Many of the essential workers who have braved a public health crisis to keep our economy moving are still not being paid enough to provide for themselves or their families. The Raise the Wage Act is a critical step toward lifting hardworking people out of poverty, addressing inequality, and ensuring that all Americans can share in the economic recovery.," said Chairman Bobby Scott, Committee on Education and Labor.

"As a longtime organizer for working people who helped draft the resolution that made Seattle the first major city to enact a $15 minimum wage, I know that raising the wage is good for workers, families, businesses and the economy," said Congresswoman Jayapal. "Now that we have a Democratic White House and a Democratic Senate, it is time for the People's House to once again stand up for workers, fight for families and pass the Raise the Wage Act so we finally have a $15 minimum wage all across America."

"Last Congress, I was proud to help lead the historic effort in the House to give Americans a raise. Floridians then followed suit and voted to increase our state minimum wage and put more money in the pockets of hard-working families," said Congresswoman Murphy. "This bill is a reasonable step to boost our economy and ensure everyone who works hard in this great country can provide for themselves and their loved ones."

"Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will change my life and let me tell my kids I can give them a better life than mine," said Kansas City McDonald's worker Fran Marion. "I'm so proud to join with leaders in Congress today as they reintroduce the Raise the Wage Act, which will give tens of millions of working families like mine the raise we so desperately need. Essential workers have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and we can't wait for help any longer."

"Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 will be a boost to the economy, and a boost to our sales. Raising wages is good business. Paying people fairly leads to greater staff retention, which reduces the cost of hiring and training new people to replace employees who leave. And fair pay leads to better quality, better ideas and better customer service," said Mike Draper, owner of Raygun LLC, an Iowa-based clothing and home goods company and member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

Sanders' Senate companion is being cosponsored by 37 Members: Chair Murray (D-Wash.), Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sens. Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bennet (D-Colo.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Booker, (D-N.J.) Brown (D-Ohio), Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cardin (D-Md.), Casey (D-Pa.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Heinrich (D-N.M.), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kaine (D-Va.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Lujan (D-N.M.), Markey (D-Mass.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Murphy, (D-Conn.) Ossoff (D-Ga.), Padilla (D-Calif.), Peters (D-Mich.), Reed (D-R.I.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Smith (D-Minn.), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Van Hollen (D-Md.), Warner (D-Va.), Warnock (D-Ga.). Warren (D-Mass.), Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Wyden (D-Ore.).

To read the bill text of the Raise the Wage Act, click here.

To read the section-by-section of the Raise the Wage Act, click here.

To read a fact sheet on Raise the Wage Act, click here.

Watch today's press conference here.

Read Sanders' prepared remarks below:

"This country faces major economic crises.

"Real unemployment is now close to 12% and last month alone 140,000 workers lost their jobs. Millions more face hunger, eviction and crushing debt.

"We have massive income and wealth inequality in America today. Incredibly, during the pandemic, 650 billionaires in America have increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion, while millions of workers struggle to feed their kids.

"And, in the midst of all of that, we must never lose sight of the fact that over half of our workers are living paycheck to paycheck. I'm talking about workers who are just one car accident, one medical emergency, one lost paycheck away from financial catastrophe.

"Let's be clear. This is the richest country in the history of the world. We can no longer tolerate millions of our workers being unable to feed their families because they are working for starvation wages.

"Let's be clear. Nobody in America can survive on $7.25 an hour, $9 an hour or $12 an hour. We need an economy in which all of our workers earn at least a living wage.

"It is a national disgrace that Congress has not passed an increase in the minimum wage since 2007 - 14 years ago.

"It is a national disgrace that the minimum wage has lost over 30 percent of its purchasing power since 1968.

"Yes. Now is the time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage - at least $15 an hour. A job in the United States of America should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it.

"And when we increase that minimum wage to $15 an hour we will be giving over 32 million Americans a much needed raise.

"In fact, if the legislation we are introducing today becomes law, the average low-wage worker in America would receive an extra $3,300 - each and every year.

"And let's be clear. The overwhelming majority of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This is not a radical idea. This is what the American people want.

"Since 1998, every time a state has had an initiative on the ballot to raise the minimum wage it has won - no matter if that state was red, blue or purple.

"In November 61% of the people in Florida - a state Joe Biden lost by 3 points - voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"Eight states and over 40 cities have adopted laws to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"During the last session of Congress, the House did the right thing under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Scott - and I applaud them for their efforts - and passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour - and I have no doubt that they will do it again this year.

"Now, this issue rests in the Senate. It is my strong hope that a number of my Republican colleagues will come to their senses and understand that raising the minimum wage is not just a Democratic issue.

"No matter whether you are a Republican, a Democrat or an Independent - all of us understand that no one in America can make it on $8, $10 or $12 an hour. We have got to raise that minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"But let me also say this. If we cannot get enough Republicans to vote for this legislation under regular order, we cannot take no for an answer.

"We must understand that the issue of starvation wages is a national emergency.

"We must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour through budget reconciliation by a simple majority vote in the Senate.

"And, as the incoming Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, that is exactly what I am fighting to do.

"This is not a new concept. If the Republicans could use reconciliation to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations, if the Republicans could use reconciliation to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, if the Republicans could use reconciliation to try to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw up to 32 million Americans off of the healthcare they have, we can and must use reconciliation to protect the needs of working families.

"We must use reconciliation to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

"Now is not the time for excuses. Now is not the time for more talk. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

United States Senator for Vermont

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