Sanders, Hawley Want to Force Big Companies to Pay $15 an Hour—Here's How They'd Do It

Amid a congressional debate over raising the minimum wage, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have each proposed their own measures aimed at making big businesses pay their employees $15 per hour.

Hawley, who is not in favor of the Democratic push for a federally mandated $15 minimum wage but has proposed sending quarterly refundable tax credits to workers earning less than $16.50 per hour, announced on Friday that he plans to introduce legislation that would require companies with revenues of $1 billion or more to pay their employees that wage.

The plan would also require that the minimum wage for billion-dollar companies be indexed to the federal median wage after 2025.

"For decades, the wages of everyday, working Americans have remained stagnant while monopoly corporations have consolidated industry after industry, securing record profits for CEOs and investment bankers," the senator said in a statement. "Mega-corporations can afford to pay their workers $15 an hour, and it's long past time they do so, but this should not come at the expense of small businesses already struggling to make it."

Hawley's announcement came after the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday night that a provision to raise the national minimum wage to $15 minimum could not be included in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being pushed through Congress by Democrats and President Joe Biden.

The ruling was a blow to progressives, as they made raising the minimum wage a top priority in the COVID-19 relief bill. Sanders quickly expressed his disagreement with the ruling, stating that "because of the archaic and undemocratic rules of the Senate, we are unable to move forward to end starvation wages in this country and raise the income of 32 million struggling Americans."

Sanders also said Thursday he would continue to push for a $15 minimum wage by looking at ways to raise taxes on companies paying workers less than that.

"In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don't pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with incentives they need to raise wages," Sanders wrote in his statement. "That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill."

Earlier this week, in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, Costco's CEO announced that the retail giant would raise its own starting wage to $16 per hour. Sanders, who heads the committee, took aim at large corporations like Walmart and McDonald's for paying what he called "starvation wages."

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Hawley and Sanders for comment on their proposals, and whether they would support the other's initiative, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

$15 per hour activist at DC rally
An activist holds a sign during a rally in front of the Capitol April 26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have each proposed their own measures aimed at making big businesses pay their employees $15 per hour. Alex Wong/Getty