The New York Times called on Congress to pass a national minimum wage of $15 an hour in an editorial Saturday.
“Sooner or later, Congress has to set an adequate wage floor for the nation as a whole,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. “If it does so in the near future, the new minimum should be $15.”
The $15 minimum wage has gained steam primarily at the local level in the past two years, beginning with SeaTac, Washington, in 2013. As the Times notes, the $15 minimum is now being phased in in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles County, transforming it from “a slogan to a benchmark.”
That transformation is due in no small part to the agitation of the fast-food worker-led “Fight for $15,” which began in New York City in November 2012. The campaign, backed by the large service sector union SEIU, has generated national attention with increasingly large one-day walkouts and protests demanding $15 an hour and a union.
The New York Times’ endorsement arrives at a momentous time for the Fight for $15. In 2016, five states and nine cities will decide whether to adopt a $15 minimum, the editorial board observes.
But the Times argues that nothing short of an act of Congress will suffice since 21 states have not even raised their minimum wages above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour.
Congress is highly unlikely to pass a $15 minimum wage. Senate Democrats have embraced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has solicited support for increasing the bill’s proposal to $12 an hour.
Regardless, Republicans in both chambers of Congress have blocked the bill enacting even a $10.10 minimum.
Hillary Clinton, the putative Democratic front-runner, has rejected a national $15 minimum, saying it might be appropriate in some cities and states, but not nationwide.
Clinton has cited as support for her position a New York Times op-ed by the liberal Princeton economist Alan Krueger claiming that a national $15 minimum wage would risk creating job loss in some parts of the country.
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