Bernie Sanders, 21 Democrats aim for $15 minimum wage

"If you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty," Sanders said at a rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
By Doug G. Ware  |  April 26, 2017 at 3:35 PM
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April 26 (UPI) -- Nearly two dozen Democrats in the Senate -- led by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders -- pledged to support a bill Wednesday that would raise the federal minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2024.

Sanders, I-Vt., spearheaded a rally on Capitol Hill in support of the legislation, which aims to more than double the federal minimum wage in the next seven years. The minimum wage has languished at $7.25 per hour for nearly a decade.

"Nobody can live on 7 and a quarter; you can't live on 8; you can't live on $10 an hour," Sanders said at the rally. "That is why we are saying that after 10 years of inaction, the United States Congress is going to raise the minimum wage to a living wage -- 15 bucks an hour."

Under the proposed legislation, the federal hourly minimum would increase to $9.25 this year, $12 in 2020, and $15 four years later. After 2024, the amount would rise according to median wage growth.

"It is not a radical idea to say that in this great country, if you work 40 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty," Sanders said. "We can win this fight if we stick together."

Two years ago, Sanders pushed a similar bill to hike the wage to $15 per hour, but had only five co-sponsors. This time, he has 21 -- including Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, president pro tempore emeritus of the Senate Patrick Leahy and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Although he has more sponsorship this time, Sanders still faces an uphill battle getting the bill passed in a GOP-controlled Congress, with a GOP-controlled White House. Experts note, however, that the push is likely to put more pressure on Republicans to fight for American workers.

Wednesday's rally occurred on the same day President Donald Trump's administration announced what it called the biggest tax cut in history -- and one that would substantially decrease tax liabilities for businesses.

Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez slammed the plan as a "morally bankrupt" handout to the wealthy.

"Today is the 97th day of the Trump presidency. What has he done for working families of America?" Schumer asked at the rally. The crowd shouted, "Nothing!"

"Nothing, nada. The president ran on a promise that he would stick up for the American worker. He tried to talk like a different kind of Republican who might be willing to work with Democrats," Schumer said. "But instead, the president has spent the first hundred days governing from the far right, on behalf of powerful and special interests -- breaking his promise to the working people of America.

"It sure didn't take long for the president to forget them."

Hundreds attended the rally on the front steps of the U.S. Capitol building, including organized advocates and civilian supporters of the minimum wage effort. Proponents introduced the Raise the Wage Act for Good Jobs Nation, a group of striking federal contract workers.

"By President Trump's standards, this is the biggest rally in the history of the country," lead co-sponsor Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. "I hear President Trump isn't happy about all these rallies and that means we need more of them."

Murray criticized Trump for promising to "drain the swamp" in Washington of special interests and lobby-oriented politicking.

"Has he done that? Not even close," she said. "Instead, he's filled his Cabinet with swamp creatures."

Though the federal minimum was raised to $7.25 per hour in 2009, most states have raised their bottom wage in recent years. The hourly minimum is currently above $10 in California, Arizona, Vermont and Connecticut -- and $11 in Massachusetts and Washington state. It remains at $7.25 in 14 states.

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