By Ramsey Cox
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed that he would continue to push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage during 2014.
“If people work 40 hours a week, they deserve not to live in dire poverty,” Sanders said on New Year's Eve.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that one of his first priorities for the second half of the 113th Congress would be passing a bill that raises the federal minimum wage from $7.25 and hour to more than $10 an hour.
“States and communities are not waiting for Congress to raise the minimum wage,” Sanders said. “They are doing the right thing because the simple truth is that working people cannot survive on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $8 an hour or $9 an hour.”
Sanders is co-sponsoring a bill from Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and set future increases to the rate of inflation. The bill also ensures that tipped workers’ wages are at least 70 percent of the minimum wage.
“We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour,” Sanders said. “That’s why I cosponsored legislation which will soon be on the Senate floor.”
Some Republicans oppose raising the federal minimum wage — or having one at all — because they say it burdens businesses. But Sanders said that a federal minimum wage increase would generate 85,000 new jobs and increase the take-home pay of U.S. workers by $35 billion.
Sanders also said nearly 90 percent of Americans who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are adults older than 20 — some have argued that increasing the minimum wage only helps teenage workers.