Here’s a Mother’s Day gift idea for Congress: Rather than getting mom flowers or chocolate, how about passing a policy that increases economic security for families, injects billions of dollars into communities, and ensures that women and people of color are paid more fairly?
That’s just what the Raise the Wage Act would do. Introduced last week by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), the Raise the Wage Act would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $12 per hour by 2020 and then “index” it to median wages, so that the minimum would automatically go up as overall wages rose, beginning in 2021. It also would gradually phase out the lower tipped minimum cash wage so that tipped workers would be paid the regular minimum wage before tips—something that only happens in a handful of states today. Federal law currently allows employers to pay tipped workers a pre-tip wage of just $2.13 per hour, a policy that leaves tipped workers nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as other workers.
Passing the Raise the Wage Act would especially help women, particularly women of color. Women are the majority (56 percent) of workers who would benefit from increasing the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020. As shown in the figure below, 30 percent of working women—roughly 20 million—would get a raise. The gains are even more substantial for working women of color, 37 percent of whom—8.6 million—would see their pay increase. (All of these statistics are available in EPI’s analysis of the proposal.)
Importantly, millions of these working women are moms—6.3 million, to be exact. That means more than one in four working mothers with children under 18 would see bigger paychecks under the Raise the Wage Act; among working single mothers, 40 percent (3.1 million) would get a raise. At the current minimum wage, a single mom who works full time to support two children is left more than $4,500 below the poverty line. At $12 per hour in 2020, that full-time working mother of two would earn enough from her job to safely be out of poverty.
The Raise the Wage Act also would help close the gender wage gap. Not only would more women than men get a raise under the bill, but because women are especially concentrated in the very lowest-paying jobs (and paid less, even within these jobs), they also would see the largest increases in their pay. Analysis by the National Women’s Law Center shows that the average wage gap is 22 percent smaller in states with minimum wages of $8 per hour or more than it is in states that follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Similarly, in states where tipped workers are entitled to the regular minimum wage before tips, the average wage gap is 14 percent smaller than in states where employers can pay tipped workers just $2.13 per hour.
This Mother’s Day, we hope Congress will give 6.3 million working moms what they need most: a raise.