Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a $15 federal minimum wage proposal Thursday, with the backing of Congressional Democratic leadership.
New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi were present at the press conference, a sign the Democratic Party establishment is now fully behind the Fight for $15 movement.
“We’ve got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, and what we are here to say is that living wage is $15 an hour,” Sanders said during a press conference, announcing the legislation.
The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 was introduced by Sanders Thursday, along with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Virginia Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison.
“Look, this president ran on a promise he’d stick up for the worker,” Schumer said. “He tried to talk like a different type of Republican who might be willing to work with Democrats on issues that help working people. But since he has come into office, he has completely turned his back on the American worker.”
Schumer promised that the Fight for $15 would be a huge part of the Democratic party platform ahead of the 2018 midterms. He said that it wasn’t just an economic issue, but a moral one as well.
While Sanders made the Fight for $15 one of his top issues during the 2016 election cycle, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not fully embrace movement in her failed presidential bid. Clinton received a lot of flack from progressives and the Bernie Sanders-wing of the party when she seemed to favor a $12 minimum wage.
Opponents to the legislation cite the negative impact on small businesses, and also point to the hypocrisy of Congressional Democrats.
“Today’s $15 minimum wage legislation counters overwhelming economic and anecdotal evidence showing the significant consequences of such a wage mandate,” Jordan Bruneau, senior research analyst at the Employment Policies Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.”Even prominent left-of-center economists have warned against a $15 minimum wage.”
The Fight for $15 was dealt a significant blow when Democratic Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed legislation in March, which would have raised the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. The mayor said that her decision was based on the negative economic impact of the measure.
“Hundreds of businesses have already been forced to cut jobs, reduce hours, or even close entirely in places that are already experimenting with such wage floors,” Bruneau said. “Many of the co-sponsors of this bill don’t pay their interns a $15 minimum wage, suggesting this legislation is a political ploy rather than a practical attempt to help constituents.”
Proponents of the legislation argue that it is necessary to combat a growing wage gap in America. “We welcome the introduction of the Raise the Wage Act,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, said. “Working people are long overdue for a raise, and the Raise the Wage Act is an important step in combating the troubling inequality that continues to rise in our nation, hitting communities of color among the hardest.”
Thirty-one Senators and 152 House members co-sponsored the legislation according to Sanders.
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