After eight years of stagnation, the GOP has scheduled a hearing on minimum wage to consider rising the federal minimum above $7.25 an hour. Though some states and federal corporations have since raised the minimum wage to as high as $15 an hour, Congress hasn't approved a federal minimum wage since 2007 (and Americans only began to reap the benefits of that increase in 2009). If Congress does finally decide to increase the federal minimum wage, it will impact a massive amount of the population: as of 2017, over 20 million people in the Untied States were "near-minimum-wage workers," according to the Pew Research Center.
According to The United States Department of Labor, 29 states have a mandated wage floor above the federal wage minimum. What's more, a majority of Americans support the idea of raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. Wednesday's hearing will address this cultural desire. The title of the hearing is "Mandating a $15 Minimum Wage: Consequences for Workers and Small Businesses." You'll be able to watch a live webcast of the meeting, which will be held by the Committee on Education and the Workforce at 10 a.m. EST.
For many, the meeting couldn't come soon enough: a study published in the American Journal of Political Science in November revealed that in every state in the country , the minimum wage is below what residents would prefer.
The raising of the federal minimum wage has long been one of the staples of the Democratic agenda, particularly for progressives like Bernie Sanders. Sanders has championed the notion of a $15 dollar minimum wage for several years, and even put recent pressure on corporate behemoths like Amazon and McDonalds to increase their minimum employee wages to $15 an hour; Amazon acquiesced, and McDonalds didn't.
In a similar vein, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's office recently announced that it would be paying all interns $15 an hour; it was a striking move, making her only the fourth House Democrat to pay her interns. "Time to walk the walk," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "Very few members of Congress actually pay their interns. We will be one of them."
Ocasio-Cortez had also referenced a tweet that revealed no apartments available for under $1,000 a month near Capitol Hill, earlier in December. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, "Gotta love the rich irony of Congressmen asking 'How are you going to pay for it?' suddenly grow awfully quiet when called out on their expectation that part-time workers magically invent money to work for free."
Given Democrats' recent net gain of 40 seats in the House, it's likely that the conversation over what a "living wage" really means will only increase in urgency. The Hill reports that a $15 minimum wage is at the top of the agenda for the Democrat majority, come January. What's more, Nancy Pelosi has vowed to pass this new wage floor within the first 100 hours of the new Congress, if she's elected House Speaker.
For now, a spokesperson for committee Republicans said in a statement to The Huffington Post that this Wednesday meeting is by no means the first time the party is considering the state of the living wage. Marty Boughton said, "Over the past eight years, this committee has held countless hearings about improving economic conditions for every American.”