Increase the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 from the sub-poverty level of $7.25 where it has stagnated for years.
IF we have learned anything about the economy over the past few years, it is this: Real, sustainable and fair economic growth comes from the middle out, not the top down. If the middle class isn’t feeling secure, and if workers can’t climb their way up the ladder, it doesn’t matter how many millionaires are getting bonuses or how many multinational corporations are making record profits. Our economy isn’t truly working unless it is working for every working family.
We understand this well in Washington state. Seattle and SeaTac have made history when workers, activists and small-business owners joined together with elected officials in a successful fight to raise the local minimum wage. The passion, energy and momentum behind those efforts were so inspiring and have served as a beacon of light for efforts to raise wages and economic security in communities across our state and country.
That is why I am so proud to bring these Washington state values to Washington, D.C., to introduce my Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 from the sub-poverty level of $7.25 where it has stagnated for years.
Community members and civic leaders in cities and states across the country should absolutely keep fighting for living wages that work for their communities, but I also believe that the federal government has an obligation to set a wage floor that protects workers and keeps our nation’s economy strong.
In the United States, we believe that hard work should pay off. But right now, earning the federal minimum wage can leave a family in poverty — even after working full time without taking a single day off.
In addition to boosting wages for nearly 38 million workers, my Raise the Wage Act would also bring the rest of the country in line with what Washington state has already done: indexing the minimum wage and ensuring tipped workers get the full minimum wage, regardless of their tips.
One problem with the current federal minimum wage is that it stays exactly the same, year after year, barring congressional action. In effect, federal minimum-wage workers suffer pay cuts each year, as prices increase and other workers’ wages rise around them. So my bill would index the minimum wage to median wages to ensure the minimum wage grows each year at the same pace as wages for the typical worker — because a growing economy should never leave the lowest income workers behind.
My bill would also gradually phase out the tipped minimum wage for the 43 states that allow employers to count workers’ tips toward the minimum wage. The federal tipped wage has not budged from its 1991 level of $2.13, so it is no wonder that tipped workers across the country are twice as likely as other workers to live in poverty.
Washington state has already solved this problem by eliminating the tipped wage. We are proving every single day that thriving restaurants and businesses can go hand in hand with expanding economic security to more working families — but the rest of the country needs to catch up.
In Washington state, we know that when workers succeed, businesses and the economy succeed. We understand that we succeed as a state when our success is shared, when good jobs are being created, when wages are going up for everyone and when all families have a shot at true economic security.
We are proving every single day in Washington state that putting more money in workers’ pockets creates jobs, boosts the economy and is a critical component of broad economic growth.
This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. Republican and Democratic presidents alike have signed minimum-wage increases into law. This time around, the nationwide clamor to raise the wage that Washington state is helping to drive is louder than ever.
Raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 is not the only thing we need to do to make sure our economy is working for all families, not just the wealthiest few. But it is a key piece of the puzzle I am going to be fighting hard for. I am going to make sure that Washington state families have a seat at the table and a loud voice in the process.