Jan. 16 (UPI) -- With the support of 181 co-sponsors, congressional Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024.
Unveiled by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, and colleagues, the Raise the Wage Act aims to increase the paychecks of some 40 million minimum-wage workers by giving them yearly raises until they reach $15 an hour, at which point they would continue to rise with the median wage.
The bill, which has been introduced several times previously in various forms, will also see the wages of tipped employees and workers under age 20 rise to $15 an hour by 2027.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill will open opportunities for families while spurring the country's economic growth.
"Our economy works best when it works for everyone, not just the wealthy and privileged few," she said in a statement.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who introduced this same bill in 2017 with no success, said the idea of a $15 minimum wage was once seen as "radical," but has became a "grass-roots movement of millions."
"It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it," he said, calling the current $7.25 minimum wage a "starvation wage."
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., said the bill will return dignity to poor yet hardworking people.
"No person who has the dignity of a full-time job should face the indignity of not being able to provide for themselves and their loved ones," she said.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in a statement the bill would "derail" economic growth.
"Today's bill signals that House Democrats would rather promote Bernie Sanders' extreme and unworkable campaign platform than accept that Republican pro-growth policies deliver real results to the American people," she said.
Shannon Meade, vice president of Public Policy and Workforce, said in a statement that to compensate for the increase, small businesses would have to lay people off.
"Should Congress drastically increase operating costs, then these small businesses will be forced to hire fewer people, reduce hours, or even close their doors," Meade said.
The bill follows moves by several states to independently increase their own minimum wage to $15 an hour.
On Monday, a state Senate subcommittee panel advanced legislation to increase Virginia's minimum wage to $15 by 2021 while the District of Columbia will hit the mark by 2023.
The Raise the Wage Act next goes to the Senate.