What is in this article?:
- Lawmakers introduce bill to raise federal minimum wage
- Industry associations oppose wage hike
Industry associations voice concerns about the nearly 40-percent increase proposed
Two lawmakers, flanked by a restaurant owner and two quick-service employees, held a press conference Tuesday to jointly introduce a bill seeking to raise the federal minimum wage by nearly 40 percent.
The measure would increase the minimum wage from the current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2016. After that, it would be indexed to inflation, which would provide for automatic adjustments every year, according to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the lawmakers who introduced the bill.
In his State of the Union address three weeks ago, President Barack Obama called for the minimum wage to be increased to $9 an hour. Rob Green, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, said Harkin and Miller told President Obama, “We’ll see you and we’ll raise you.”
Congress last raised the minimum wage in 2007, when it boosted it to its current level from $5.15.
Speaking at the press conference in Washington, D.C., Harkin disputed arguments that a hike in the hourly federal wage would damage the country’s fragile economy and force businesses to lay off workers. He said it was “a myth that every time we raise the minimum wage people get put out of work. There’s no empirical data to support that.” Instead, he added, “Every time we raise the minimum wage, the economy gets stronger.”
Also speaking at the press conference, Anas “Andy” Shallal, owner of the Busboys and Poets restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area, agreed with Harkin, noting that Washington’s minimum hourly wage is higher than the national rate, yet restaurants are opening all the time. However, he said, he has watched as industry wages have remained stagnant.
"I want our business to provide career opportunities. This is not working for anybody — it’s not good for workers or society. I would love to see [this bill pass],” Shallal said.
Amy Crawford, who works for an unidentified quick-service restaurant in Chicago, also joined Harkin and Miller to support the measure, saying that even though she was hired at the Illinois hourly minimum wage of $8.25, “that is not enough to live on. I worry about paying the rent, having enough food…buying clothes for my kids.”
She added that she has received only one 50-cent raise since taking the job and has found almost no opportunities to move into a management position.
The authors of the bill also say indexing the minimum wage to inflation will help protect workers in the future. “It’s a significant change,” Miller said. “Without indexing we fall behind.”
Harkin said the measure would also enable workers who rely on tipped income to make 70 percent of the full minimum wage per hour.