Shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to support the bill and immediately begin the process for voting on it in the Senate. As Sen. McConnell publicly refused to even consider taking up the legislation, Sanders asked McConnell why he is “afraid” to vote on the bill.
In a letter sent to McConnell on Thursday, Sanders wrote, “As you know, by a vote of 231-199, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
“I am renewing my request that you bring legislation to the floor that I have introduced to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and to index it to median wage growth thereafter. This bill (S.150), the Raise the Wage Act, is co-sponsored by 31 of our Senate colleagues.
“I understand that you may vote against this bill. If you would like to explain to the people of Kentucky why you believe a $7.25 minimum wage is acceptable to you that is your prerogative. But at a time when millions of workers are working for starvation wages, it would be absolutely unacceptable to deny the Senate the opportunity to vote for this bill which would increase the wages of nearly 40 million Americans and lift millions out of poverty.”
Sanders noted that large corporations like Amazon and Disney have voluntarily increased worker pay to $15 an hour. He also pointed out that recent research has found that employment and wages increased on average whenever a state raised the minimum wage since 1979.
Sanders concluded, “Workers in America have seen 40 years of wage stagnation. Roughly 40 percent of all Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency. One in 9 workers are paid wages that can leave them in poverty even though they work full time.
“I urge you to allow the Senate to take up the Raise the Wage Act to immediately begin improving the lives of working Americans across the country.”
On Thursday, McConnell tweeted, “Research shows that hiking the minimum wage to $15 would kill jobs and depress the economy at a time when it’s thriving for the American people. We are not going to be taking that up in the Senate.”
A few hours later, Sanders responded, “Mitch McConnell is wrong. Since 1979, when a state has increased the min. wage, employment and wages typically go up, not down. A $15 minimum wage would raise wages for 39 million people and lift millions of Americans out of poverty. Why is McConnell afraid to let us vote on it?”