Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has faced pushback from several Democratic Senators over his recent proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $17 per hour over a period of five years.
Today I announced that I will be introducing a $17 minimum wage bill in the Senate. Please share your story about what $17 per hour would mean to you. https://t.co/x8VeneUdVO
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 4, 2023
The announcement, made at the U.S. Capitol on May 4, has raised questions about the bill’s prospects in the Senate.
While progressive organizations have rallied behind the proposal, some senior Democrats have expressed hesitations, including Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee.
Casey voiced concerns about the feasibility of Sanders’ plan in an interview with the Hill, saying, “Just getting to $15 is a lot of work.”
For Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a more gradual approach is needed. As he emphasized the importance of a sort of escalator mechanism in the minimum wage increase, Coons expressed concerns about a “step function” that could delay wage raises for long periods before a significant increase occurs.
The opposition from Casey and Coons raises doubts about the bill’s passage in the Senate. It doesn’t help that Democrats are unlikely to secure support from Republicans in the House, where they hold a majority by a tiny gap.
Meanwhile, progressive organizations, such as the Union of Southern Service Workers, have been calling for legislation that would raise the minimum wage as they make the case that the current minimum wage falls far short of meeting the basic needs of workers.
“We struggle to feed our kids and pay our bills. We demand higher pay,” Union of Southern Service Workers member Tara Thompson said during Sanders’ proposal announcement. Co-founder of the union, Marmacookie Bradley, also emphasized that even $15 is insufficient in light of the increasing cost of living.
As Sanders’ proposal moves forward, it remains to be seen whether the Democratic Senators’ reservations can be addressed and whether the bill will garner enough support to become law. In the meantime, several states, including New York, have implemented their own wage increases.
On May 3, New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she signed a law raising the minimum wage to $17 for New York City and surrounding areas for three years. The minimum wage for upstate regions was also increased to $16.