U.S. House approves $15 minimum wage for workers

Consumer Watch

The House has approved legislation to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, to $15 an hour. Democrats pushed through the bill Thursday with a party-line vote of 231-199, but it has almost no chance in the Republican-controlled Senate.

A hike in the $7.25 hourly wage has been a top Democratic campaign promise. It’s intended to address income inequality that’s driving the 2020 political debate.

The legislation, for the first time, would pay tipped workers the same as others earning the minimum, boosting their pay to $15 an hour, too. It’s now $2.13.

Patrick O’Bryan is the manager at Cafe Duo in Greenville. He says many waiters and waitresses already make $15 an hour when you include their tips.

O’Bryan says this would mainly impact the kitchen staff.

O’Bryan said, “Not all of them make $15 an hour so if this comes through, many restaurants would have to raise prices so you might not have as many restaurants come by as often.”

Norman James lives in Trenton; he says he understands why many people want to see the federal minimum wage go up.

Republicans balked at the wage hike, saying it would cost jobs. States are already able to raise the wage beyond the federal minimum, and many have done so.

James said, “For students working in a restaurant, I think it would be good because some of them have to pay for their education.”

A minimum wage hike has been a top Democratic campaign promise, intended to address income inequality that’s driving the 2020 political debate.

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said raising the wage is the “right thing to do.”

A $15 federal minimum wage would give a direct raise to 17 million workers and would “likely” boost pay for 10 million more, an assessment by the Congressional Budget Office found this month.

Tina Simmons lives in Greenville; she says she sees both sides.

Simmons said, “For the positive, people would make more but for the negative, I see the big picture, my concern is would it make the cost of living go up.”

A raise to $15 would also likely cause job losses, the CBO said, although it noted “considerable uncertainty” about how steep those losses would be.  The CBO also said as many as 3.7 million workers could lose their jobs if the federal minimum rose. 

The wage hike is considered a long shot given that Republicans control the Senate and the White House, but some big corporations are supportive of the effort.

Amazon recently pledged to raise its minimum to $15 after feeling political pressure, with Costco the following suit and Target moving to $15 an hour next year.

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