WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to pass the historic Raise the Wage Act (RTWA), which will increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and eliminate the subminimum-wages for tipped and youth workers and workers with disabilities. After passing with 233 votes (including 3 Republicans), the bill is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate, where the Republican majority will face strong and sustained pressure from workers, advocates, progressive lawmakers, and constituents to increase the minimum wage after the longest period in U.S. history without a raise.
“Today’s House vote for a $15 minimum wage reflects the will of the people: Raising the minimum wage is long overdue, and it’s popular with voters in every state, and across all demographics including political affiliation,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “We applaud the House for doing its job. Now there’s no other moral choice but for the Senate to take up the Raise the Wage Act and move it forward.”
By passing the RTWA, the House sets an unprecedented standard for minimum wage policy. In addition to gradually nearly doubling the minimum wage from $7.25, the RTWA will eliminate the subminimum wage for young workers under age 20, workers with disabilities, and tipped workers, whose outdated wage has been frozen at an insulting $2.13 since 1991. The bill will also be indexed to keep workers’ wages at pace with all other wages in the growing economy, which is projected to decrease income inequality, particularly for women and workers of color.
Finally heeding the demands that originated with fast-food workers in the Fight for $15, the vote in favor of $15 mirrors national polling: The majority of U.S. voters support $15, including two thirds of voters in battleground congressional districts. More than 360 organizations signed onto a letter in support of the Raise the Wage Act when it was introduced in January.
“We have a federal minimum wage because workers everywhere in this country should be paid enough to meet their needs and live with dignity. A federal minimum wage that has been stuck at a poverty-level $7.25 defeats its own purpose—it suppresses workers’ wages instead of lifting them,” Owens said. “Finally the House has affirmed what we’ve known for years: $15 an hour is the bare minimum needed to get by in this country.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the RTWA, with additional leadership from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found the bill would lift pay for 27 million workers earning at or near the minimum wage and it will reduce the number of people living in poverty by 1.3 million.
Progressive and conservative economists alike agree there is a new consensus among economists favoring an increase to the minimum wage. The majority of research finds increasing the minimum wage leads to little or no job loss. And a recent study from UC Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics found that a $15 minimum wage is viable even in low-cost states like Alabama and Mississippi.
Owens further noted: “This victory is only possible thanks to the bravery and resolve of all the workers who have stood up over the past six years and stopped asking only for the crumbs they thought were politically palatable, and instead, demanded what they deserve. We are proud to stand with all of them, the real leaders of this movement.”
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org. Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.