WASHINGTON – Legislation to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 over two years will get a vote in the Senate in February, the chairman of the Senate labor committee said Tuesday.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act in March, which would provide three 95-cent increases to the minimum wage starting three months after enactment and also would incrementally bolster tipped wage, now $2.15 per hour, to reach 70 percent of salaried minimum wage over six years.
A spokesman from Harkin’s office said Tuesday afternoon that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has slated a slightly different version of the bill, the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, to skip committee consideration and go straight to the floor in February. The new version of the bill, which Harkin will sponsor, would start the wage increases six months after its passage instead of three, and contains a tax break to help small business handle the financial strain of higher wages.
As soon as the Senate votes on a budget bill and an unemployment benefit extension measure, “it’s our intention to bring up our minimum wage bill sometime soon after we get back from break next week,” Harkin said. “Whether or not we get the 60 votes or not, I don’t know. But we can try and see. If we don’t get them in the first round, well, we go back and try it again.”
Harkin touted the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 at an Economic Policy Institute briefing Tuesday, where he was joined by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who introduced the House version of the bill.
According to an analysis by the EPI, which advocates for low and middle-income workers and has ties to labor unions, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 would increase the wages of 27.8 million workers. As the law is phased in, the workers would earn $35 billion more in wages, the GDP would increase by $22 billion and 85,500 new jobs would be created.
Harkin and Miller, who are both retiring after this year, said the Republican refusal to raise the wage is indicative of a selfish, “tough luck attitude” that has become more prominent in Washington and the corporate world
“There used to be a consensus in the Congress about dealing with issues like this. There used to be a universal agreement that people who work hard every day…that these workers, worker bees out there, are valuable to our economy. And quite frankly, if you think about it, these are the people that make our economy run,” said Harkin. “We used to agree that if you work hard and play by the rules, you could have a meaningful stake in our economy”