Sewell Leads Democrats in Introducing Regional Minimum Wage Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) led a group of over a dozen Democratic lawmakers today in introducing the Paying Hourly Americans Stronger Earnings (PHASE)-in $15 Wage Act (H.R. 2080), legislation that would calculate a new federal wage floor based on the regional cost of living and purchasing power.
“To be clear, all Democrats are committed to keeping our promise to raise the minimum wage for the American people. Many minimum wage workers – including those in Alabama – haven’t seen a pay increase since the federal government raised the wage to $7.25 nearly ten years ago. It is time for Congress to raise the minimum wage in a way that supports workers and protects jobs,” Rep. Terri Sewell said. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities in Alabama’s 7th district and across the country and are often the primary source of economic opportunity for workers in distressed neighborhoods, but they are disproportionately impacted by uniform changes to the minimum wage. The PHASE-in $15 Wage Act establishes a regional minimum wage structure that provides all minimum wage workers with a much-needed raise while protecting jobs, giving every community the flexibility to grow their economy and taking into account that the cost of living in Selma, Alabama is very different than New York City.”
“We need to raise the federal minimum wage in every part of the country, but we must do so in a way that makes sense for big metropolitan cities, small rural towns, and every place in-between. Our country is made up of many different economies, with various costs of living,” Rep. Lucy McBath (GA-6) said. “This bill is the sensible minimum wage solution that acknowledges basic economic realities and will help provide the federal minimum wage increase workers have been waiting for.”
“I am proud to cosponsor the PHASE-in $15 Wage Act to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6) said. “I have also long supported a regional living wage. Americans working fulltime jobs should be paid wages that allow them to support their families.”
“As a small business owner, I know how important it is to ensure that workers are paid fairly and new businesses can thrive,” Rep. Dean Phillips (MN-3) said. “It’s vital that we raise the minimum wage in a way that addresses the urgent needs of new businesses and working families. They are not mutually exclusive.”
“Many Americans face the financial burden of living paycheck to paycheck because of low minimum wage standards,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) said. “It is a mistake to assume one set dollar amount will work for New York City and McAllen, Texas. Congress must take action to fix this issue, so that the wage scales as needed in each area of the county. We cannot be a nation of prosperity when so many are restricted from that very liberty. I am proud to join Congresswoman Sewell’s efforts to raise the minimum wage, strengthen America’s working class, support small businesses and their employees, and provide true economic opportunity for everyone – no matter their circumstance.”
“A $7.25 federal minimum wage is indefensible in this day and age. Our country needs to make sure everyone shares in America’s new found prosperity. But we need to make sure that small business men and women can afford to hire new members of our workforce,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5) said. “The answer is to enact a national minimum wage framework the mirrors Oregon’s. One size does not fit all. The cost of living is different in rural areas towns and large cities. A new federal wage should take that into account.”
Under the lawmakers’ proposal, federal minimum wages would be updated every three years using the most current economic data, while still allowing state and local governments to maintaining the ability to supersede the federal minimum wage based on their local economic conditions.
Specifically, the PHASE-in $15 Wage Act would group Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA, as designated by the U.S. Census) into one of five tiers based on the most recent Regional Price Parities (RPP) data. RPP is measure of comparative purchasing power across MSAs, determined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The bill outlines a two-year phase-in and a readjustment every three years based on increases in the average hourly wage of private sector, non-supervisory workers.
The bill, if passed, would allow the entire country to meet and exceed a $15 minimum wage, but at different times depending on how quickly an area can absorb the wage increase. The legislation would raise the minimum wage in high-cost areas, like New York City, to $15 by 2024, and in low-cost areas, like Tuscaloosa, Alabama, around 2033.
In addition to Sewell, the bill was introduced by Reps. Ami Bera (CA-7), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Kendra Horn (OK-5), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-6), Lucy McBath (GA-6), Scott Peters (CA-52), Dean Phillips (MN-3), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Kurt Schrader (OR-5), Elissa Slotkin (MI-8) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-7). The PHASE-in $15 Wage Act is endorsed by Third Way.