It took eight years, but House Republicans decided with less than a month to go in their leadership that now was the time to hold a hearing on the state of the minimum wage. Or at least that was the plan.
Facing minority status, GOP leaders seemed to want to use today’s scheduled Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hearing to argue why raising the wage floor for the first time in more than a decade to $15 an hour is a bad idea. But their intentions quickly went south when some of the, umm, unusual theories pedaled by one Republican witness, economist Joseph Sabia, came to light and caused committee leaders to postpone the hearing instead. For now, it is uncertain when or if it will be rescheduled.
Luckily, workers won’t have to rely on such a backward-looking bunch to craft policy going forward. House Democrats are about to seize control of the chamber and are pledging to move ahead with passing a major minimum wage increase that would make it easier for lower-income workers to support their families.
In the absence of congressional leadership on this issue, scores of states and localities decided to take charge of the matter on their own and raise the minimum wage, bringing respect and dignity to millions of hardworking Americans. As it stands, 29 states now exceed the paltry $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage.
Of those, three states and numerous jurisdictions that have adopted and are in the process of phasing in a $15 an hour wage that would improve economic stability for working families that live there.
There can be no doubt that a wage floor hike is needed. The spending power of federal minimum wage earners has fallen 40 percent in the past five decades. As the National Low Income Housing Coalition detailed in a report earlier this year, full-time minimum wage workers would need to work 2.5 full-time jobs in order to afford a one bedroom apartment in most of the U.S.
Meanwhile, corporate America continues to pocket huge profits while hardworking Americans see their paychecks remain flat or worse. While economy boosters like to point to the nation’s low unemployment rate, that doesn’t mean much when workers can’t pay their bills.
Cost-of-living projections show that by 2024 workers nationwide will need at least a $15 an hour full-time job to afford life’s basics. It’s time for Congress to take up legislation that would allow more than 40 million workers to have more money to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.