Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is doing everything in his power to make income inequality a thing of the past.
Having been a long-time supporter of raising the minimum wage to $15, Sanders intends to introduce new legislation on Wednesday in hopes of making the minimum wage more livable than the $7.25/hour it is now – a request heavily echoed among fast food, retail, and other low-wage workers. This makes the bill the highest minimum wage proposal to ever reach Congress. Sanders said, “The simple truth is that working people cannot survive on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $8 an hour or $9 an hour. If people work 40 hours a week, they deserve not to live in dire poverty.” Already, a few cities (including Los Angeles, the largest to date) have adopted a $15 minimum wage, however, Sanders’ proposal will be the first time it goes to Congress.
Under Sanders’ proposal, the minimum wage would increase in increments until 2020, when it becomes $15. Joining him in this effort are Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who will be presenting the same bill in the House. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has also spoken in favor of raising the minimum wage and expressed support for increasing it to $15 an hour, but has not yet endorsed that figure. Another Democratic contender, Martin O’Malley, is also supportive of raising the minimum wage to $15.
Earlier this year, Democrat Sen. Patty Murray proposed to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour, and earned the support of the Obama administration and prominent Democrats. This initiative followed President Barack Obama’s call for the minimum wage to be increased to $9 an hour in 2013. As Sanders’ proposal takes it a step beyond what his fellow Democrats have previously endorsed, it’s unclear if it will be received just as well.
With the GOP controlling the Senate, it’s not likely Sanders’ bill will get a vote. Despite the fact that Republicans supported minimum wage increases when President George W. Bush was in the White House, they have blocked more recent efforts to raise it, on the simple basis of being proposed by liberals. For example, last year Senate Republicans filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and this election doesn’t look any more promising as far as the GOP is concerned. Scott Walker recently called the minimum wage “lame” and Jeb Bush said, before taking it back, that he wants to do away with the minimum wage completely.
Featured image courtesy of Brookings Institution via Flickr.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.