Fighting for minimum wage increase

Senate approval of federal minimum wage increase is stalled by tax breaks.

In a huge victory for workers, the Senate voted overwhelmingly last Thursday to boost the federal minimum wage by $2.10 bringing it to $7.25 an hour over a two-year period. The increase, however, is packaged with small business tax cuts and limits on corporate pay that could potentially complicate its path to become law. The importance Republicans are placing on the bill’s business tax breaks is unfortunate and should be included in a separate House-initiated bill.

The tax break dispute is delaying the wage increase as the bill is finding difficulty reconciling with the House version passed Jan. 10 containing no tax provisions. While House Democrats are insisting on a bill without tax breaks, Republicans have made it very clear that the only way they will pass a modest increase in the minimum wage is with tax breaks for small businesses. Proponents of the tax break claim that the bill will not only raise labor conditions, but also continue to promote economic growth.

Minimum wage workers have waited far too long for this increase and to make them wait even longer because business tax giveaways are shameful. This is currently the longest Congress has gone without raising the minimum wage since it was introduced, and too many families are suffering as a result. Americans deserve a minimum wage bill with no strings attached.

The wage increase is also a top priority for Democrats, as it would be one of the first major legislative successes of the new Democrat-controlled Congress. The measure challenges Democrats to navigate between the demands of labor and the realities of the Senate, where Republicans hold 49 of 100 votes. All eyes are on House and Senate Democrats as they try to negotiate a way out of the potential standoff.

Although the details of the plan clearly need to be worked out, this increase in the minimum wage – the first in a decade – is a significant step towards improving labor laws across the nation. The increase represents a necessary step in improving the lives of millions by making economic prosperity a reality.