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Adams, House Democrats back federal minimum wage hike
Bill would raise pay to $15 an hour by 2024
 
Published Tuesday, January 26, 2021 7:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

FILE PHOTO
U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (center) of Charlotte announced her support for the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which would increase the federal minimum standard to $15 an hours by 2024.

The push for a minimum wage hike has moved to Congress.


U.S. Rep. Alma Adams and other Democratic lawmakers introduced the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which would boost the federal minimum to $15 an hour by 2024. Adams, an original cosponsor of the bill, was joined by Reps. Bobby Scott (Virginia), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Washington), and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Florida) to announce the bill. The House passed a similar wage-increase bill in 2019, but it stalled in the Republican-majority Senate. Democrats now have both majorities in both chambers.


The federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, has been in place since 2009 – the longest period without a raise since 1938 when it became law. There is growing momentum for a wage hike. As of this year, the minimum wage in a majority of states is higher than the federal standard, with 20 states raising pay in 2021. North Carolina is still among the states with a $7.25 standard.


“It is long past time to raise the wage in North Carolina, and across the country,” said Adams, who represents Charlotte. “The federal minimum wage has been held hostage at $7.25 for almost 12 years, but you can’t survive on $7.25, especially not during a pandemic. …America’s essential workers deserve a wage that reflects the value of their work.”


A report published Jan. 14 by the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found that if the federal minimum is raised to $15, an estimated 23 million Americans would get a “direct boost” in pay, including over 9 million parents and 14 million people over age 24.


Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, a conservative think tank, criticized a hike, which is part of President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.


“Not only would this bill incentivize lockdowns and unemployment, but by doubling the federal minimum wage, and increasing it by 700 percent for restaurants, it would deal the knockout blow to small businesses that have managed to hang on for nearly a year of lockdowns,” she said in a statement. “Not only will this devastate those small businesses, but it will put their employees out of work at a time when they need their paychecks most.”


As a North Carolina state representative in 2006, Adams backed a $1-an-hour increase in the state’s minimum wage, which lifted the wages of more that 100,000 workers.


According to an independent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, the Raise the Wage Act would benefit nearly 32 million Americans, including a third of all Black workers and 25% of Latino workers. More than half of the workers who would benefit are women.


“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the $7.25 federal minimum wage was economically and morally indefensible,” said Scott, who chairs the House Committee on Education and Labor. “Now, the pandemic is highlighting the gross imbalance between the productivity of our nation’s workers and the wages they are paid. Many of the essential workers who have braved a public health crisis to keep food on the table and care for our loved ones are still not being paid enough to provide for themselves or their families.“


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