News Releases

New $15 Bill Is the Strong Action on Wages America Needs

In response to the announcement of legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2024, National Employment Law Project executive director Christine Owens said:

This proposal delivers exactly what working Americans have been crying out for across the country – strong action to raise wages. For nearly five years, workers from Birmingham, Ala. to Las Vegas, Nev. have been standing together and saying that they need at least $15 per hour to survive and to support their families. Today’s announcement is a clear sign that a growing number of elected leaders have heard the workers’ call for action and are bringing the Fight for $15 to Capitol Hill.

Congress hasn’t raised the minimum wage since 2009, and there is no corner of this country where the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 will keep a single adult out of poverty. Soon, workers across America will need at least $15 per hour just to cover the basics. The fastest-growing industries in America are also the lowest paid, and many of the jobs we used to think of as pathways to the middle-class now pay less than $15 hour.

The Raise the Wage Act would bring our economy back into balance and rebuild the middle class. We commend Senators Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray, as well as Reps. Keith Ellison and Bobby Scott on their leadership in this fight to ensure everyone is paid a wage they can live on, no matter where they reside.

Background

Today Senators Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray and Representatives Keith Ellison and Bobby Scott announced they will introduce the “Raise the Wage Act of 2017”, which would gradually raise pay from $7.25 to $15 an hour for 41 million people across the country by 2024, as well as index the minimum wage to increases in the typical worker’s wages starting in 2025. The bill would also close loopholes that allow employers to unfairly pay some employees less than the minimum wage.

Elected leaders in New York, California, Seattle and Washington, D.C. have already answered the call to increase wages and made $15/hour their standard, raising pay for tens of millions. But more than half of all African-American workers and close to 60 percent of Hispanic workers make less than $15 an hour, perpetuating cycles of poverty in communities that have historically been plagued by low-wages and socioeconomic disenfranchisement. Women make up 66 percent of the workforce making 7.25 an hour.

Low pay costs taxpayers over $150 billion per year to fund social safety-net programs which supplement the incomes of families affected by this low wage.