The long-sought $15 minimum wage to American workers finally passed approval from the US House Committee Thursday through the Raise the Wage Act.
The Act came to fruition in a 231-199 vote, where only six Democrats opposed it, while three Republicans supported it.
“This is about workers, it’s about their economic and financial security, and today is a bright day because it affects so many people in our country,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday at a press conference flanked by fast-food workers, activists and lawmakers ahead of the scheduled vote.
Notably, the Raise the Minimum Wage Act took some time in revisions from the Democratic-led chamber with considerations to smaller businesses and for some states that could absorb more significant impact as compared to other major states.
The legislation was instead amended earlier this week, where the initial five-year plan was revised to a more gradual six-year phase-in.
In a nutshell, the Act would gradually hike the US pay floor to $15 an hour by 2025, to let businesses and economy adjust with the change. Then, index future increase to median wage gains.
Throughout the next six years, the minimum wage hikes would take effect on the following schedule: $8.40 in 2019, $9.50 in 2020, $10.60 in 2021, $11.70 in 2022, $12.80 in 2023, $13.90 in 2024 and $15 in 2025.
Furthermore, it would also eventually abolish the lower minimum wage for tipped workers, where businesses reason American “tipping culture” as to why people like waitresses and bartenders are paid below the current minimum wage.
The bill would eliminate a seldom-used pay floor for teen workers that pays them less than the minimum wage and abolish subminimum wages for workers with disabilities.
“I commend my colleagues for taking this important step towards creating an economy that works for everyone,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat who introduced the legislation, in a statement. “Now, Senate Republicans must decide to either stand with American workers or turn their backs on hardworking people across the country.”
However, the legislation has yet to gain approval from the Senate and the President to receive implementation. The problem is that both are mostly Democratic-leaning—where they contend that raising the minimum wage would drastically affect the US economy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed that he has no plans to bring the legislation up in his chamber. On Thursday, he told Fox Business Network that the Act would “depress the economy at a time of economic boom,” adding, “we’re not going to be doing that in the Senate.”
The White House also warned this week that Trump would veto the measure if it came to his desk. The Trump administration argued its policies are “driving economic growth and increasing workers’ take-home pay far more effectively and efficiently” than the Democratic plan. The White House contended it would “eliminate jobs and reduce total wages for American workers.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would give 17 million U.S. workers a raise — and could lift wages for millions more. It would also boost the annual income of 1.3 million people above the poverty level, CNBC reported.
However, it would also “eviscerate millions of American jobs,” citing a July report from the Congressional Budget Office that said 3.7 million Americans would lose their jobs if the measure is adopted, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said
The last increase to the US federal minimum wage was July 2009 — which is almost a decade ago. The federal minimum wage was raised from $6.55 an hour to the current $7.25 an hour.
One of the major problems activists cite with the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage is that it can barely cover basic expenses, with prices for healthcare, oil, and commodities had gone up within the past decade. The $7.25 rate in 2009 is valued at only about $6 in 2019. The cost of living has soared 18% since the last increase.
In line with the report, states have passed bills that raise state minimum wages higher than the federal baseline. As of June this year, 21 states have passed minimum wage hikes—some even at the $15 an hour threshold.
However, the state minimum wage varies. In Florida, the minimum wage stands at $8.46 an hour; in Hawaii, it’s $10.10 an hour; in California, the minimum wage goes up to $12 an hour. Meanwhile, in states like New York and Seattle, the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour and even $16 an hour, respectively.
Companies like Amazon and Walmart have raised their minimum wage to $15 and $14.26 an hour, respectively. The move has prompted government states to follow suit.