Washington, DC – Today Senate Republicans blocked the Minimum Wage Fairness Act, a bill to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over several years. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a cosponsor of the bill and member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over federal minimum wage legislation, released the following statement on today’s vote:
“Too many Rhode Island families are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table, despite working long hours. It’s time to make the federal minimum wage a living wage, so that hardworking Rhode Islanders can provide for themselves and their loved ones, and businesses see more customers with money to spend. I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans refused to allow an up-or-down vote on this commonsense legislation, but I will continue working to pass this and other bills to give working Americans a fair shot.”
The bill, S. 2223, failed on a procedural vote by a count of 54-42. The federal minimum wage, as authorized under the Fair Labor Standards Act, requires employers to pay workers at least $7.25 per hour, a rate that hasn’t changed since 2009. In Rhode Island, the rate is only slightly higher at $8.00 per hour. Currently, a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage earns less than $15,000 per year, which is below the poverty level for a family of two. If increased to $10.10 per hour, the federal minimum wage would raise the pay of over 16 million workers and lift roughly 900,000 Americans above the poverty line, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. In Rhode Island, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, 91,000 workers would get a raise.