If the minimum wage had increased with productivity over the last 50 years, it would be $23 an hour today. If it had increased at the same rate that Wall Street employee bonuses have increased, it would be more than $42 an hour.
WASHINGTON, July 25 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, today with Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, 29 Democratic colleagues in the Senate, nearly 150 in the House of Representatives, and the support of nearly 50 organizations from across the country, introduced legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $17 by 2028.
Estimated to benefit nearly 28 million workers, or 19 percent of the working population, the Raise the Wage Act of 2023 would raise the federal minimum wage to $17 per hour over five years, eliminate the tipped sub-minimum wage over seven years, eliminate the sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities over five years, and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for youth workers over seven years.
“The $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be raised to a living wage – at least $17 an hour,” said Sanders. “In the year 2023 a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and record-breaking corporate profits, we can no longer tolerate millions of workers being unable to feed their families because they are working for totally inadequate wages. Congress can no longer ignore the needs of the working class of this country. The time to act is now.”
Said Ranking Member Scott: “No person working full-time in America should be living in poverty. The Raise the Wage Act will increase the pay and standard of living for nearly 28 million workers across this country. Raising the minimum wage is good for workers, good for business, and good for the economy. When we put money in the pockets of American workers, they will spend that money in their communities.”
Over the last 50 years, $50 trillion in wealth has been redistributed from the bottom 90 percent of America to the top 1 percent. Today, the value of the current federal minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, is the lowest it has been since 1956 and has declined by nearly 28 percent since it was last increased in 2009. While approximately 5 million tipped workers in the U.S. depend on tips for nearly three-quarters of their income, the tipped sub-minimum wage has remained stagnant at just $2.13 per hour since 1991. The current median wage for approximately 120,000 workers with disabilities is just $3.50 per hour.
Meanwhile, across every state in the country, a living wage for a worker in a family with two working adults and one child is greater than $17 per hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Family Budget Calculator. However, nearly 30 percent of workers in the U.S., over 44 million people, make less than $17 per hour. Many of these low-wage workers face persistent economic insecurity, struggling to put food on the table and afford basic necessities, including housing, health care, and childcare.
American workers are among the most productive in the world. Yet, in industry after industry, the share of revenues going to wages has dropped, while the share going to profits and stock buybacks has soared. In fact, if the minimum wage had increased with productivity over the last 50 years, it would be $23 an hour today. If it had increased at the same rate that Wall Street employee bonuses have increased, it would be more than $42 an hour.
Since 2013, twelve states – New Jersey, South Dakota, Arkansas (twice), Alaska, Washington, Maine, Colorado, Arizona, Missouri, Florida, Nevada, and Nebraska (twice) – have voted on ballot initiatives to raise their state’s minimum wage. Every single one of these initiatives passed, none with less than 55 percent of the vote. In the November 2022 midterm election, two states that elected Republican governors, Nebraska and Nevada, also approved minimum wage increases. In 2020, the citizens of Florida, with a Republican governor and two Republican senators, also voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Joining Sanders on the Raise the Wage Act in the Senate are Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
Nearly 50 organizations have endorsed the legislation including: A Better Balance, AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE), Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, Care in Action, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), Demand Progress, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project, First Focus Campaign for Children, Food Research & Action Center, Indivisible, Jobs With Justice, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality Workers Union, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Education Association (NEA), National Employment Law Project (NELP), National Employment Lawyers Association, National Institute for Workers’ Rights, National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Partnership for Women & Families, National Urban League, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), One Fair Wage, Oxfam America, Patriotic Millionaires, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund (SPLCAF), United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), United for Respect, United Steelworkers (USW), Voices for Progress (V4P), The Workers Circle, Workplace Fairness, YWCA USA, and the National Black Worker Center.
Read the bill text, here.
Read the fact sheet, here.