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A bill to raise the federal minimum wage is back on the table.

North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams was among the coalition of Democrat lawmakers on Tuesday who reintroduced a bill that would raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Why it matters: The current $7.25 federal minimum wage is below the living wage necessary in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s been 12 years since Congress last increased the federal minimum wage — the longest stretch since 1938. 

To get to $15 an hour, the “Raise the Wage” Act proposes a plan to gradually increase the federal minimum wage every year through 2025. 

After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to median wage growth. In doing so, the move guarantees that wages would keep up with inflation without needing new legislation, according to CNN.

Additionally, the plan would:

  • Eliminate the tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers.
  • Phase out lower minimum wages for youth workers and workers with disabilities.

“It is long past time to raise the wage in North Carolina, and across the country,” said Congresswoman Adams, who represents North Carolina’s 12th congressional district, including Mecklenburg County. “The federal minimum wage has been held hostage at $7.25 for almost 12 years, but you can’t survive on $7.25, especially not during a pandemic.

Last summer, the House voted to raise the minimum wage to $15, but the bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate. The new measure is included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package.

Supporters say: Low wages hurt all workers, especially communities of color. More specifically, women of color. 

A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the Raise the Wage Act would deliver about $3,500 annually for year-round Black and Brown workers.

  • A $15 federal minimum wage would benefit 31% of Black workers and 26% of Latinos.
  • Almost one in four (23%) of those who would benefit is a Black or Latina woman.

Although two-thirds of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, there is a deep partisan divide.

Opponents say: Raising minimum wages would hurt small businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said recently that the wage increase won’t have significant effects on the job market.

However, analysts say companies that rely on low-wage workers — like restaurants and retail — would bear the brunt of the economic hit. 

The National Restaurant Association released a statement explaining how the bill “imposes an impossible challenge for the restaurant industry.”

Now what? Senate Democrats would need support from 10 Republicans to break a filibuster. Without the votes, incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that budget reconciliation by a simple majority vote is another option.

Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a...

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