Increase the minimum wage

We support an increase in the minimum wage. We also believe local governments should be able to set a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage.

Legislation that has been introduced in Congress:

The “Raise the Wage Act” [S. 1242] and [H.R. 15] amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase the federal minimum wage for regular employees over a 7-year period, for tipped employees, and for newly hired employees who are less than 20 years old.

Major party platforms on this issue:

The Democratic Party platform:

“We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it.”

The Republican Party platform

“Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level.”

Discussion

Saying the minimum wage “should be handled at the state and local level” implies that we should repeal the federal minimum wage law. To the best of our knowledge, there is no state controlled by Republican legislators that has raised the minimum wage above the federal level. In Missouri, when local governments in Kansas City and St. Louis raised the minimum wage above the state level, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from establishing a minimum wage above the state level. It is clear that the Republican Party wants the minimum wage to be as low as possible.

Should the Full Employment Act that Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce in the Senate be passed into law, with the federal government guaranteeing every worker a job that pays at least $15 per hour, a minimum wage law would no longer be necessary. This is a unique opportunity for the bipartisan action.

Polling on this issue:

According to a poll conducted by Hart Research Associates on behalf of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), 75 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. The breakdown by party was 92% of Democrats. 73% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans. Public support was higher for a minimum wage increase to $12.50 than for a more modest increase to $11.00 (75% to 71%, respectively).

Eliminating the sub-minimum wage that the restaurant industry is allowed to pay tipped workers – currently set at just two dollars and thirteen cents per hour – and instead require all employers to directly pay their workers at least the regular minimum wage was supported by 64% of voters, with 21% opposed and 14% neutral. This included 78% of Democratic voters, with 8% opposed and 12% neutral; 49% of independent voters, with 33% opposed and 16% neutral; and 57% of Republican voters, with 29% opposed and 14% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

A poll conducted on behalf of the National Restaurant Association found that 71 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10, “even if it also increases the cost of food and service to customers.” Twenty-nine percent said they would prefer to keep the minimum wage the same, “even if the average food service employee can’t make ends meet.” The National Restaurant Association was reportedly not happy with the results of the poll they commissioned.