The passage of the program-slashing, millionaire-protecting budget measures in the House and Senate this week might have you convinced that no one in Congress is looking out for women and their families. But all is not lost! A number of our leaders in Washington do in fact care about families who are struggling to make ends meet. Here’s one example: reports have surfaced this week that Senator Murray (D-WA) is looking to introduce a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. She’d also “like to see the separate tipped [minimum cash] wage abolished altogether,” and her proposal would include an indexing measure to ensure that the value of the minimum wage does not erode in the future.
This proposal stands in stark contrast to the Republican budget plans—and it is exactly the kind of measure we need to ensure that women and families across the country begin to experience a real economic recovery. Today, women are two-thirds of the workers making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour—a wage that leaves a full-time working mom with two children thousands of dollars below the poverty line. Women are also two-thirds of tipped workers, for whom the federal minimum cash wage has been stuck at just $2.13 per hour for nearly 25 years. Nationwide, the poverty rate for tipped workers is about twice as high as the rate for the workforce as a whole.
Raising the minimum wage, eliminating the separate minimum wage for tipped workers, and indexing the wage to rise annually with inflation can improve women’s economic security and help narrow the wage gap. NWLC analysis shows that states with higher minimum wages tend to have smaller wage gaps—and states that require employers to pay their tipped workers the regular minimum wage before tips typically have lower poverty rates among tipped workers, as well as smaller overall wage gaps. Boosting pay for minimum wage workers can also improve the overall economy, with widespread benefits for working families: a higher minimum wage means workers have more resources to spend in their communities, increasing demand for goods and services and creating jobs. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that moving the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 would ultimately benefit about a third of the U.S. workforce.
More than half the states currently have minimum wages above the federal level; Senator Murray’s home state of Washington, where the minimum wage is $9.47, is already considering a bill to raise it to $12 per hour. But a robust federal increase—and federal abolition of the pitifully low base wage for tipped workers—is essential to help millions of workers across the country support themselves and their families. A recent national poll shows that fully three-quarters of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $12.50 per hour by 2020; 82 percent support indexing the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation; and 71 percent support eliminating the separate minimum cash wage for tipped workers. If our Members of Congress are listening to their constituents, they should quickly rally behind Senator Murray’s proposal and pass the minimum wage increase that working families want and need.