NEWS & ANALYSIS

Progressives Push to Keep $15 Minimum Wage Hike in Stimulus Package


Progressive democrats are pushing to keep the proposed $15 minimum wage increase in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, as republicans push harder against it. 

The House Budget Committee approved Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Monday, paving the way for a full House vote later this week. 

While the minimum wage hike remains in the bill thus far, it faces skepticism when it heads to the Senate. 

Rep. Pramila Hayapal urged that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour “is absolutely essential” and she “believes the Senate will do it,” according to CNN. 

Senate democrats are preparing to tackle the bill with the narrowest of majorities, CNN reports, and the wage increase is the biggest obstacle standing in the way. 

Indeed, the most dividing issue within the bill is the increase. 

“It was the No. 1 priority for progressives,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash) said. “This is something we’ve run on and something we’ve promised to the American people.” 

But, even some democrats oppose it. 

Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a democrat, has expressed that the increase to $15 from $7.25 is simply too expensive, despite his progressive colleagues’ dreams. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz) has also hinted she may oppose it. 

One California representative doesn’t seem to care about the potential damage the minimum wage hike will inevitably have on small businesses.

Rep. Ro Khanna defended the wage as “very reasonable” in a CNN interview.

And, what’s worse, when asked if he thinks small businesses can handle a $15 minimum wage, he said “successful” businesses should be able to pay their workers fair wages.

“We don’t want low-wage businesses. Most successful small businesses can pay a fair wage. If you look at the minimum wage, it increased with worker productivity until 1968, and that relationship was severed. If workers were actually getting paid for the value they were creating, it would be up to $23,” he said.

But, restaurant owners have expressed concerns over raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, warning that restaurants could be forced out of business by such a large increase. 

In a Heritage Foundation forum last week, Betsy LeRoy, owner of Pizza by Elizabeths in Delaware, blasted the proposed hike. 

“This is not the time for a federally mandated minimum wage [increase]…the unintended consequences of this are far-reaching,” she said. 

“The president and his team may understand Delaware politics, but I’m not sure they understand the difficulties of Delaware restaurants. How else to explain his proposal to raise the minimum wage for our servers and bartenders from $2.23 an hour to $15 – an increase of more than 400% – which would be a death knell for our industry?” she said. 

Indeed, restaurants are struggling perhaps the hardest amidst the coronavirus pandemic. With egregious lockdowns and restrictions on both indoor and outdoor dining, restaurants are struggling to stay afloat. A drastic federally mandated pay increase could force the restaurant industry into greater turmoil. 

A study released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revealed that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour could increase wages for 27 million workers and lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, but it would also eliminate 1.4 million jobs over the next four years, the Daily Signal reports. 

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