Raise the Wage Act of 2019 Introduced

February 13, 2019

On Jan. 16, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, joined House and Senate leadership—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—to introduce the Raise the Wage Act of 2019. House Democrats introduced the legislation (H.R. 582) with 196 co-sponsors, while the Senate companion (S. 150) measure has 31 Democratic co-sponsors.

For nearly ten years, from September 1, 1997 through July 23, 2007, the federal minimum wage was $5.15 per hour. Three times in the following two years, the minimum wage rose, settling in at $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. The minimum wage has remained $7.25 since then.

The bills would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, index future minimum wage increases to median wage growth and ensure all workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by phasing out the subminimum wages for tipped workers, youth workers and workers with disabilities.

According to the lawmakers, the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would:

  • Gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over the next six years to lift millions of workers out of poverty, stimulate local economies, and restore the value of minimum wage;
  • Index future increases in the federal minimum wage to median wage growth to ensure the value of minimum wage does not once again erode over time;
  • Guarantees tipped workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by repealing the subminimum wage for tipped workers, which will ensure consistent, livable pay;
  • Guarantees teen workers are paid at least the full federal minimum wage by repealing the rarely used subminimum wage for youth workers; and
  • End subminimum wage certificates for individuals with disabilities to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be competitively employed, taxpaying citizens and participate more fully in their communities.

Currently, there are just three states with a minimum wage below $7.25, while four others have no minimum-wage law. Meanwhile, the District of Columbia and 29 states have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage. However, none currently have a minimum wage of $15/hr. New York has enacted legislation to increase minimum wage until the rate reaches $15 minimum wage and $10 tipped wage.

In 2017, over a half-million workers received the federal minimum wage, and another 1.8 million workers made below that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even if the proposal passes through the Democratic-controlled House, it will likely fail in the Republican-held Senate. However, the new House Democratic majority sees the measure as a message that it wants to lift low-wage workers and boost the economy – and an effort to focus on its policy priorities as the new Congress gets underway.