For many working Americans, one of the most enticing promises that President Biden made during his 2020 campaign was a call for the minimum wage to be raised to $15. It looked like this promise would come to fruition when the increase in wage was introduced in his $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. As of Saturday, Feb. 27, when a key Senate chair shared that this inclusion would not be possible, the reality of this wage increase looks quite distant.
This increase would have been the first since 2009, when the federal minimum wage was raised by a mere 70 cents, from $6.55 an hour to the current wage of $7.25 an hour. The House of Representatives passed a bill in 2019 to raise the minimum wage to $15, but was quickly shot down by the formerly Republican majority senate. Although adding the wage increase onto the relief bill was the most efficient way to achieve the goal of a $15 minimum wage, the raise is still going to be a major focus for Congress in the future.
“We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Times.
The retraction actually came from a loss of time. In order for this relief bill to include the current benefits it does, it must pass before March 14. The Washington Post stated that the Senate parliamentarian had ruled that “the $15 minimum legislation is not permitted under Senate rules” and because of the March 14 deadline, this debate caused a delay.
“Basically, the clock ran out,” Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden told USA Today.
Raising the minimum wage would have put change in the pockets of many, especially college students. Daisa Washington, a first-year at Guilford, currently works at Boston Market, earning minimum wage, to help pay tuition.
“The possibility of an increase in minimum wage to $15 was something I was excited about; my coworkers, too,” said Washington. “We were so hopeful.”
Motivation in the workplace currently plays a large role in the amount of effort and execution of tasks.
“There was a clear lack of motivation before as we are not getting paid a proper wage for the work we do, and now, with the loss of hope for a federal raise, I think motivation will drop,” said Washington.
Biden has made it clear that a big goal of his is returning to a bipartisan relationship between the opposing sides of government.
“President Biden is disappointed in this outcome,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told the New York Times. She added that the president believes that “no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty.”
According to USA Today, the minimum wage increase would have lifted nearly 1 million people out of poverty. However, the Washington Post reported that there is no way that the raise will be included, and Senate Democrats do not have the votes to overrule the parliamentarian.
Hopefully, this first setback will not lead to further delays in the Biden administration’s plan to have the federal minimum wage raised by 2025.