Joe Biden Falls While Climbing Stairs

Biden Set To Increase US Minimum Wage

When President Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal earlier this month, few were surprised by the plan’s hefty price tag or sweeping scope.

More striking was Biden’s inclusion of a measure to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15.

The move, backed by leading Democrats including left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, establishes the fight for higher wages as a top priority for the new administration, potentially leading to one of Washington’s boldest adjustments in US social and labour policy in decades.

The fate of the initiative — which so far lacks support from Republicans — will help determine whether Biden delivers on a core pocketbook issue as US income inequality widens during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sanders, a former presidential candidate, called the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour a “starvation wage” as he unveiled the proposal for an increase in Congress.

The senator said he hopes Republicans “will understand the severity of the crisis,” but added that Democrats should be prepared to enact the policy on a narrow party-line vote.

Such an increase would boost wages for more than 32 million US workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank.

The Sanders bill proposes “a significant increase in the minimum wage,” Ben Zipperer, an economist at the institute, told AFP. “Unfortunately, we have quite a big hole to dig out of in terms of providing what low-income workers need.”

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– Popular support –

The bill would put the United States on par with a growing number of states and cities that have already enacted the hike at the urging of the “Fight for $15” movement launched by fast-food workers in the early 2010s.

“The bump up made it a little bit easier,” said Maggie Breshears, who works at a grocery store and retailer Fred Meyer in Seattle and has gone from making about $10 per hour in 2013 to $17.59 after Seattle lifted its minimum wage in 2014.

The US minimum wage was first enacted in 1938 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms.

The measure has been periodically increased since then, most recently in 2007, when Congress lifted it gradually from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, which would equal a $15,000 annual salary.

Barack Obama was unable to win a boost during his eight-year presidency from 2009 to 2017. In 2019, the House of Representatives approved an increase, but the bill died in the Republican-led Senate.

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