Dear Members of Congress:
As members of a broad coalition of organizations that promote economic security and equality for
women, we strongly urge you to cosponsor and pass the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 as a top priority
of the 117th Congress. This legislation is critically needed to advance racial and gender equity
and address the economic pain that is falling particularly heavily on women of color in the wake of
the COVID-19 pandemic.
Women—especially Black and brown women—have long worked in essential but undervalued jobs that
leave them struggling to support themselves and their families. Women are close to two-thirds of
those working in jobs that pay the minimum wage or just a few dollars above it, as well as two-
thirds of workers in tipped jobs. Black women, Latinas, and Native American women are particularly
overrepresented in the lowest-paying jobs, and are particularly harmed by a $7.25 federal minimum
wage that has not gone up in over a decade.
Although these inequities existed long before COVID-19, the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated
them. Black women, Latinas, and other women of color are especially likely to be on the front lines
of the crisis, in jobs that leave them unprotected and underpaid—from personal care and home health
aides to grocery store cashiers to child care workers. And tipped workers are often facing far
greater risk for far fewer tips, while federal law continues to allow employers to pay them a base
wage of just $2.13 an hour—unchanged in 30 years.
Women’s concentration in low-paid jobs is a key factor driving persistent gender wage gaps that are
deepening the financial impact of COVID-19 for women and the families who depend on their income.
Women working full time, year round typically make only 82 percent of what their male counterparts
make, leaving a wage gap of 18 cents on the dollar. This wage gap varies by race and is far larger
for many women of color: Black women working full time, year round typically make only 63 cents,
Native American women only 60 cents, and Latinas only 55 cents for every dollar paid to their
white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. While Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women make
85 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, women in many AAPI communities
experience drastically wider pay gaps.
These lost earnings not only leave women without a financial cushion to weather the current crisis,
but also make it harder for them to build wealth, contributing to racial and gender wealth gaps and
creating barriers to families’ economic prosperity. Poverty-level wages also heighten women’s
economic vulnerability, which in turn heightens their vulnerability to sexual harassment on the
job. For example, women who rely on tips to survive often feel compelled to tolerate inappropriate
behavior from customers so as not to jeopardize their income, while employers are often unwilling
to protect their employees for fear of upsetting a paying customer. And today, tipped workers also
face the challenge of enforcing compliance with public health protocols from the same customers on
whom they rely for the bulk of their pay.
The Raise the Wage Act is a critical response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an essential component
of an equitable recovery. This legislation will raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an
hour by 2025, then index the minimum wage so that it continues to rise along with wages overall. It
will also end unfair exclusions for tipped workers, people with disabilities, and youth so that
they, too, can benefit from a decent minimum wage.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025
would give close to 32 million working people a raise; of these workers, almost 60 percent are
women, and nearly one in four is a Latina or Black woman. Because women are the majority of workers
who would see their pay go up, gender wage gaps would likely narrow as well. In part this is because of the impact on tipped workers, nearly 70 percent of whom are women. In “One Fair Wage”
states where employers already have to pay their tipped workers the full minimum wage before tips,
the gender wage gap is one-third smaller than in states where the tipped minimum cash wage remains
$2.13 per hour.
Women tipped workers in One Fair Wage states also experience far lower poverty rates than their
counterparts in states that follow the $2.13 federal standard. And One Fair Wage ensures that women
in tipped jobs have a paycheck they can count on, making them less vulnerable to harassment—and
better positioned to enforce mask requirements and other public health measures necessary to
protect themselves and our communities.
Decades of research show that minimum wage increases consistently boost incomes for workers and
their families without costing jobs—even during economic downturns. In fact, raising the minimum
wage can spur consumer demand because low-paid workers are highly likely to spend any additional
dollars they receive. It is also a critically important way to value the people who are caring for
our children, protecting the public health, and keeping our economy afloat during the pandemic.
Increased and sustained public investments—starting with the funds proposed to stabilize the child
care sector and support home and community-based services in the COVID relief reconciliation
bill—can ensure that child care workers and home care workers who have been risking their lives to
provide essential services get a raise they need and deserve, without increasing costs for the
families they serve.
The unfolding impacts of COVID-19 reveal just how many communities of women, and the families that
depend on their earnings, are bearing the brunt of policy choices that have failed to center the
needs of women, people of color, and families with low and moderate incomes. Women and their
families cannot afford to wait any longer for change during this unprecedented public health and
economic crisis. And we cannot build back an economy that works for everyone without ensuring that
all women can work with equality, safety, and dignity—starting with equal and adequate pay.
We urge you to prioritize the Raise the Wage Act in the 117th Congress by cosponsoring and swiftly
passing this legislation, without any weakening amendments.