Big things are happening for the minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act, which includes a $15 minimum wage and full elimination of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, disabled workers, and youth continues to move through Congress. If passed in the House of Representatives, the bill would move to the Senate, where the Senate Parliamentarian will decide if the Raise the Wage Act will remain a part Biden’s existing COVID relief plan. If it does not move forward with the relief plan, the Raise the Wage Act can and will move forward as a standalone bill, emphasizing the importance of this proposal.
The minimum wage in the United States hasn’t changed since 2009 and still sits at $7.25 per hour and the subminimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13 per hour. The subminimum wage descends from the legacy of slavery, when Black workers were forced to work for tips alone, rather than paid their rightful hourly wage. Even after the abolishment of slavery and formal Jim Crow laws, the tipped workforce – which is 70% women – still suffers from economic insecurity, the highest rate of sexual harassment of any industry, and racial inequality. Black women are also disproportionately disadvantaged as tipped workers and are reported to make $5/hour less than white men due to customer bias in tipping.
The issues that working women confront have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forcing a mostly female workforce to rely on tips as their base wages subject them to both race and gender pay inequity as well as life-threatening sexual harassment. The Raise the Wage Act would not only release women from the undertow, but it would also reduce the number of people in poverty by 900,000. The proposed hike alone would assist nearly 17 million workers by gradually increasing the hourly wage in increments until 2025. Workers have been calling attention to a $15/hour minimum wage since 2012, where the effort has succeeded in eight states and more than 40 cities.
In order to raise the minimum wage, the Raise the Wage Act would require a majority of votes once it hits the floor. Some opponents of the measure argue that the legislation raises the minimum wage too much or that such a bold move should standalone, not alongside the other proposals in the COVID relief plan. Unfair wages and treatment have long existed for women working minimum wage jobs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked the issue to the point where it cannot be ignored. Women deserve a wage that secures their economic future rather than jeopardizes it. The Raise the Wage Act is an opportunity to raise the floor for all women.