After the runoff elections in Georgia were won by Democratic candidates, it appears that a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour is more likely. Both winners in the runoff, as well as President-elect Biden, are staunch advocates of raising the bar. The House of Representatives, led by Democrats, voted to implement the increase in 2019.
Should such an increase pass under a Biden Administration, it would more than double the existing minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour. The increase is likely to be challenged from business groups and some Republicans.
Democrats Handed Control of the Senate
The victories of Democrats Jon Ossoff and The Reverend Raphael Warnock handed the Democrats control of the Senate as well as The House of Representatives and the presidency. Although protests disrupted the proceedings on January 6th by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, Congress did manage to confirm President-elect Biden’s win in the November elections.
Senator Sanders of Vermont, an Independent who has a history of supporting the democrats, is quoted a saying the $15 per hour minimum wage was at stake in the runoff election in Georgia. Sanders tweet went on to say that fighting climate change and expanding health care in the country are also at stake. According to Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, it is a priority that Democrats pass legislation ushering in a higher minimum wage.
Senator Sanders, Mr. Hamrick, and others argue that the current minimum wage fails to provide working Americans with a livable income. The federal minimum wage, which stands at $7.25 an hour has remained the same since 2009. According to numbers offered by the National Employment Law Project, $7.25 per hour equates to an income of $15,080 for a full-time employee who works a full year.
Since the minimum wage has not risen along with the cost of living over the last 12 years, purchasing power has eroded.
The Two New Senators Are in Favor of an Increase in the Minimum Wage
Senators-elect Warnock and Ossoff are both advocates of a $15 minimum wage. This stance was stressed many times during the election campaign. President-elect Biden has pledged to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Several states, including Florida, California, New York have already increased the minimum wages, some even higher than the anticipated $15 level. By the end of 2021, 40 cities and counties will have implemented a $15 minimum wage.
Senator-elect Ossoff stated while campaigning, “The last 40 years have seen wages for workers crushed, while returns for investors have risen dramatically.”
Raising the minimum wage would come when low-wage earners, as well as racial minorities, have been seriously affected by job loss and poverty during the current COVID pandemic.
Opposition to the Increase
As much as Democrats, and some Republicans, favor passing a wage increase into law, its passage is not a foregone conclusion. The success of Warnock and Ossoff in gaining seats in the senate only means it is divided 50-50 between the two parties, with V.P Kamala Harris in a position to deliver a tie-breaking vote, siding with Democrats. This slim of a majority would be shy of the threshold required to prevent a filibuster.
Both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation for Independent Business oppose the move. These groups are of the opinion that a wage increase of such magnitude would increase labor costs, prompting employers to pare their payroll.
Even though there is opposition to the plan, momentum seems to side with the Democrats. Bankrate’s Mark Hamrick suggests the economy was able to absorb the 2009 increase. He went on to say that 2009 was also a challenging year, but for different reasons.
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