Democrats back $15 federal minimum wage, phasing out sub-minimum wage for tipped workers

Democrats back $15 federal minimum wage, phasing out sub-minimum wage for tipped workers

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate unveiled the latest bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and gradually raise the sub-minimum wage for workers who receive tips until it reaches the full minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act, introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is sponsored by 28 Senators. A companion bill introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) features 152 cosponsors in the House including Maine Representative Chellie Pingree.

“I’ve seen it in Washington state and across the country: our country is strongest when workers and families are strongest, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a critical part of reaching that goal,” said Senator Murray. “I’m especially proud that the Raise the Wage Act would mean millions of women—particularly women of color who are disproportionately impacted by pay discrimination—earn more of what they need to support their families.”

The bill is notable for including tipped workers and workers with disabilities, who are often excluded from minimum wage increases and paid a lower subminimum wage. Last year the Democratic Party included raising wages for all workers, including tipped workers, as a plank in the party’s platform. Nationally, 66% of tipped workers are women — nearly 40% of them mothers — and more than half are people of color.

In November, voters in four states, Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington overwhelmingly supported minimum wage increases at the ballot. In Maine the initiative incrementally raises the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. The initiative also increases the sub-minimum tipped wage from $3.75 plus tips to the full minimum wage over the next decade. The increase is expected to benefit 180,000 Mainers, 1 in 3 workers in the state, by the time the increase in fully implemented.

Despite predictions to the contrary from minimum wage opponents, since the wage increase has been implemented Maine’s unemployment rate has decreased and more new jobs have been created, including in the restaurant and accommodations sector.

“Passing this legislation would be an instant game changer for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” said Jonathan Schleifer, the executive director of The Fairness Project, an organization that supports ballot initiative campaigns promoting economic fairness. “This is the kind of economic acceleration that voters enthusiastically backed and Washington has repeatedly promised. It’s time to finally deliver.”

Despite overwhelming support at the ballot box, Maine legislators are currently considering a slew of bills proposed by Republican legislators to undo portions of the law. A new bill introduced by Governor Paul LePage would roll back every part of the law, while others seek to stop increases in future years, cut current wages, eliminate raises for tipped workers and allow younger Mainers to be paid less.

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