Bernie Sanders pushes for $17 hourly minimum wage: ‘Workers need a living wage’

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is once again asking Congress to raise the minimum wage in the United States -- this time to $17 per hour.

Mr Sanders announced via a press conference on Thursday that the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee would introduce new legislation on 14 June that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $17 over a five-year period.

“In the year 2023, in the richest country in the history of the world, nobody should be forced to work for starvation wages,” Mr Sanders said at the top of the press conference. “If you work 40, 50 hours a week, you should not be living in poverty. It is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”

The federal minimum wage in the United States has not been raised since 2009 when it was raised to $7.25.

While each state may enact its own minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage set, 15 keep their employee wages at the level set by the federal government.

Two states, Georgia and Wyoming, have minimum wages set lower than the federal standard.

“Nobody in this country can survive on $7.25 an hour and maybe some of my colleagues in Congress might want to live for a month on seven and a quarter in an hour and see what it’s like,” Mr Sanders said shaking his fingers at US Capitol building behind him.

The Economic Policy Insitute (EPI), a nonprofit economic research and analysis organisation, estimated through their family budget calculator that there is “no part of this country where even a single adult without children can achieve an adequate standard of living with a wage of less than $15 an hour.”

Mr Sanders previously tried to raise the minimum wage to $15 with the Raise the Wage Act which he introduced to the Senate in 2017. However, it died in committee.

The Vermont Senator introduced it again in 2019 and in 2021, both times it failed to make it past committee.

Now, Mr Sanders is trying again, this time asking Congress to raise it to $17 to account for inflation.

EPI estimates that the federal minimum wage “has lost more than a third of its value since its inflation-adjusted high point of 1968.”

“This is not a radical idea,” Mr Sanders said. “The overwhelming majority of Americas support the minimum wage, the living wage, doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat, Republican or Independent.”

Mr Sanders cited several states with Republican leadership, like Nebraska and Florida, where residents voted to raise the state’s minimum wage.