New bill calls for nationwide $15 minimum wage

By Megan Cerullo

/ MoneyWatch

New state laws kick in for 2019

Democrats on Wednesday are expected to introduce new legislation that would bring the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 after wage hikes took effect in 20 different states this year.

More than 100 Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott's Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which aims to ensure all working Americans earn a living wage. It's expected to give roughly 40 million Americans a bump in pay, according to a press advisory. Once fully phased in, the average affected worker would see about a $3,500 increase in annual pay. Today, one in nine U.S. workers earn wages that leave them in poverty, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

"No person working full-time in America should be living in poverty," said Chairman Scott. "Raising the minimum wage is not only good for workers, it is good for businesses, and good for the economy. When we put money in the pockets of American workers, they will spend that money in their communities. This bill is a stimulus for Main Street America," he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday voiced his support for a hike in the federal minimum wage, which remains stuck at $7.25, where it has hovered since 2009.

"The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage. That is why I, along with many other members of Congress, will introduce legislation this week to raise that wage to $15 an hour. If you work 40 hours a week, you should not live in poverty," Sanders said.

A follow-up tweet read: "A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. We must raise the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour. Doing so would directly increase the wages of more than 25 percent of the U.S. workforce."

Amazon hikes minimum wage to $15 for U.S. workers

Fast-food workers have been fighting for $15 an hour since 2012, when 200 McDonald's employees walked off the job in New York City. The Fight for $15 has become a global movement that's now active in more than 300 cities across six continents.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, the organization behind Fight for $15, called the prospective bill "a huge step forward in deciding to end poverty work in America."

She said recent minimum wage hikes across the country illustrate "the power of the idea that when you work hard for a living you ought to be able to lead a decent life and provide for your family."

She also touted the economic benefits of a minimum wage increase.

"Workers have more money to spend in communities spurred by economic activity and growth," she said. "Businesses are positively impacted by people having more money in their pockets."

"Right thing to do"

Restaurant owners in some states have argued that wage hikes actually result in operators cutting jobs to offset increases in payroll.

But Henry maintains "it's the right thing to do for working people who are not even able to provide for themselves and their families while working 80-100 hours per week. That is morally reprehensible," she said.

The Raise the Wage Act would also lift provisions that allow businesses to pay subminimum wage for tipped workers.

Minimum wage workers weighed in on the bill.

"100% of the people who make less than $15.00/hour want the federal minimum wage to be $15.00/hour," said Twitter user Sharon Fane.

The bill will likely be challenged in the GOP-controlled Senate. President Donald Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, is opposed to a federal minimum wage.

First published on January 16, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

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