Nancy Pelosi Promotes $15 Minimum Wage Effort on Labor Day; Here's Where it Stands

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is using Labor Day—a holiday meant to celebrate American workers—as a chance to again push for a long-sought hike in the federal minimum wage.

"For generations, working people joining together in a union have been one of the greatest forces for progress in American history: winning the 40-hour work week, two-day weekends, workplace safety protections, collective bargaining rights and more," Pelosi said in a statement Monday. "Moving forward, Democrats will continue to fight to enact our legislation, passed in the House with the partnership of labor, to secure equal pay for equal work and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

The minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour, has not been raised in more than a decade—the longest stretch since it was first set in 1938. Thirty states, the District of Columbia and other cities have established their own minimum pay levels above the federal minimum, as Congress' attempts have been blocked.

Critics argue that any drastic increases in the minimum wage could hurt small businesses, increase costs for consumers and possibly threaten jobs.

According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released earlier this year, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would bring nearly a million people out of poverty in the next four years. But it also estimated that nearly 1.5 million jobs could be threatened, the cumulative budget deficit would go up by $54 billion and Americans would face higher prices for goods and services.

But Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have continued to make the effort a priority, frequently pushing votes on the issue through various avenues.

Under Democrat control, the U.S. House has advanced legislation that would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, but the U.S. Senate, where Democrats have a razor-thin majority, has so far rejected the effort as key Democrats, including conservative-leaning West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, oppose the higher minimum wage mandate.

Eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus joined all 50 Republicans in blocking the latest effort earlier this year—an attempt to tack the $15 minimum wage hike onto a coronavirus relief package. With the Senate filibuster still in play, the measure would have needed 60 votes to advance.

Manchin has said he would support up to $11 an hour, but he thinks $15 is too burdensome for businesses.

"$7.25 is sinfully low. We must raise it," Manchin said during an appearance on ABC's This Week in March.

Shortly after taking office, Biden signed an executive order that will require most federal contractors to pay at least $15 an hour for their workers next year—up from $10.95 an hour.

In March, after the attempt to amend the COVID-19 relief package failed, Pelosi vowed that the House would continue to try to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour but didn't give specifics on when or how the Democratic leaders might get around the Senate pushback.

"We will persist with the minimum wage," Pelosi told reporters during a news conference in March.

Pelosi pushes $15 minimum wage on LaborDay
U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continued her push to raise the federal minimum wage vy releasing a statement on Labor Day. Here, Pelosi holds up seven-year-old Kassidy Durham of Durham, North Carolina, during a news conference prior to a vote on the Raise the Wage Act July 18, 2019 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The legislation would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025. Alex Wong/getty Images