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Democrats introduce $15 minimum wage bill

OAK BROOK, IL - MAY 21: Fast food workers and activists demonstrate outside the McDonald's corporate campus on May 21, 2014 in Oak Brook, Illinois. The demonstrators were calling on McDonald's to pay a minimum wage of $15-per-hour and offer better working conditions for their employees. Several protestors were arrested after they entered and ignored police orders to leave the McDonald's campus. McDonald's is scheduled to hold its annual shareholder's meeting tomorrow at the campus. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Congressional Democrats introduced $15 minimum wage legislation on Wednesday. That would more than double the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which hasn’t risen since 2009. As years have gone by and workers have organized around a $15 minimum wage—which has been passed in California, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia, as well as in several cities—Democrats’ ambitions for a minimum wage increase have gone from $9 to $10.10 to $12 to, now, $15. 

The new legislation would provide an immediate boost to $8.55 an hour, then rise gradually to $15 in 2024, at which point it would be linked to the median worker’s income, providing automatic gradual raises so that there wouldn’t be any more 10-year plateaus. The plan would also give tipped workers a raise from the $2.13 an hour they’ve been getting for nearly 30 years.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would give 41 million people an average $3,500-a-year raise. Nearly two-thirds of the people who’d get raises work full-time, 56 percent are women, 47 percent have some college education, 28 percent have children, and more than half are between the ages of 25 and 54. Forty percent of African-American workers and 34 percent of Latino workers would get a raise. It’s not just service workers who would be affected, either: Substantial percentages of manufacturing and construction workers would also benefit. 

Tons of research rebuts the inevitable Republican objections. As Bryce Covert summarizes:

One study looking at 138 increases between 1979 and 2016 found that the number of low-wage jobs was left basically unchanged. Other research ― especially the highest-quality studies — has similarly found no net impact on jobs. On the other hand, research does show that increases in the minimum wage are effective at lowering the poverty rate.

But if Republicans stopped claiming that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs, they’d just have to admit they hate workers.

It’s years past time for the minimum wage to go up. This has to be a major Democratic focus even in the face of inevitable Republican opposition.

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