Dem lawmakers push for big raise on federal min wage

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s Independent senator, introduced legislation Wednesday to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Sanders and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., co-sponsored the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, while a House version was introduced by Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn.  The new rate will more than double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The legislation has the endorsement of the top Democratic leaders. The increase would be pushed out in phases, set to reach the $15 mark by 2024.

At a Capitol Hill rally, Sens. Schumer, Sanders and Murray came together to discuss the new minimum wage.

Attendees cheered the lawmakers and the new drive to raise the federal rate. The last time Democrats agreed on a wage amount it was set at $12 per hour. Activists have worked hard to get support for the $15 rate.

“Now, the whole party is behind the fight for $15,” said Rabbi Jason Kimmelman-Block, director of Bend the Arc, an activist group.

The senators who spoke at the rally focused on President Donald Trump. All three spent time criticizing what they see as his lack of support for workers and accused him of trying to help the wealthy.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Sen. Schumer said, “A $15 minimum wage is about dignity in the workplace & making sure American workers can provide for their families. #raisethewage.”

Senator Murray also took to Twitter Wednesday, also targeting the president. “As hard as President Trump tries to stack the deck against workers — we need to keep fighting back & supporting working families #RaiseTheWage,” she tweeted.

Despite the fact that top economists say raising the rate to $15 per hour would have a severe negative impact on jobs, activist groups like Bend the Arc and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) continue to support the increase. They argue an increase will help the economy.

“Tens of millions of workers, mostly adults who provide more than sixty percent of their family’s income, would benefit from going to $15,” said David Cooper, EPI’s senior analyst. “This would, in turn, benefit their communities.”

The American Action Forum (AAF) says the new wage would have the opposite effect. It says the increase to $15 an hour will reduce jobs in California by 65,000 and New York by 109,000, and will release a study on Thursday to support that claim.

Another study, based in San Francisco, found that the number of restaurants closing their doors is increasing, and fewer new restaurants are opening, due to the higher minimum wage in that city.

Cicely Simpson, executive vice president of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association agrees. “Recent studies have shown dramatic increases to the minimum wage could have a damaging effect on local economies and result in overall job losses,” she said.

With a Republican-controlled Congress, the $15 rate proposal is not likely to pass, but an increase short of that level is possible.

President Trump suggested a federal rate as high as $10 during the campaign, although he may not focus on that anytime soon.

H/T: Washington Examiner

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