Oregon Senators Join Push to Raise National Minimum Wage to $15

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined a group of lawmakers introducing a bill to raise the national minimum wage to $15 by 2024.

Posted: Jan. 17, 2019 2:09 PM
Updated: Jan. 17, 2019 2:16 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Both of Oregon's elected Senators have signed on in support of a bill that would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per-hour if adopted, according to a statement issued on Thursday.

“There are hardworking Americans who just simply aren’t making enough money to make ends meet. That’s unacceptable,” Wyden said. “Oregon has already blazed a trail by taking concrete steps to lift the minimum wage in our state. Now it’s time for the federal government to take action and ensure a living wage for all Americans.”

The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would increase the minimum wage to $15 by the year 2024 — granting a wage increase to about 40 million Americans, by the accounting of supporters.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than 11 percent of U.S. workers earned ages below the poverty level in 2017, equating to roughly one in every nine workers. The publication regards a poverty-level wage as hourly pay that would leave a full-time, full-year worker below the federal poverty line for their family size if they are the sole earner in the family.

While there are fewer Americans earning poverty-level wages today than just a few decades ago, supporters of the Raise the Wage Act say that the federal minimum wage has failed to keep up with inflation and has less buying power now than it did in the 1960s.

“I live in the same working class neighborhood that I grew up in, and my neighbors are just like the families across Oregon and across America who are struggling to stay afloat on jobs that pay minimum wage,” Merkley said. “We all do better when we all do better, and we can start tackling the destructive opportunity gap that is eating away at our economy by raising the federal minimum wage. Nobody should work full time and live in poverty in America.”

On top of raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over six years, the Raise the Wage Act also promises to pin the federal minimum wage to overall wage growth so that it doesn't stagnate again, and guarantees that tipped workers get paid at least the federal minimum wage — ending the practice of allowing restaurant servers, for example, to be paid less than the minimum with the understanding that they will make up the difference in tips.

Supporters of the bill also say that it will give particular aid to women and workers of color. They also promise a boost to the economy by way of an estimated increase of $2 billion per year as minimum wage workers spend the additional earnings.

The bill was introduced with 181 cosponsors in the House and 31 cosponsors in the Senate.

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