Raise the Wage Act also known as the S150 Bill was introduced in Senate on January 2019 by Vermont Senator, Bernard Sanders. Senator Sanders is the original sponsor of this bill and have been actively advocating for a sustainable and fair minimum wage for Americans. According to statistics from the US Census Bureau, there was 0.5 percent decline on poverty from 2017 to 2018. However, the same statistics showed that 38.1 million still lived in poverty in 2018, translating to official poverty rate of 11.8 percent (US Census Bureau, 2019). These exuberant statistics clearly and sadly represent America’s reality. McInnis-Dittrich (1994) also emphasized on the many issues embedded in America society, ranging from poor quality housing, lack of medical insurance, high school dropout and how minority groups have been unable to access the economic benefits due to a lack of political power (McInnis-Dittrich, 1994). To serve as a voice for those in need Senator, Sanders sponsored Raise the Wage Act and made it clear that the current Federal minimum wage of $7.25 is an starvation wage and should be raise to $15 an hour, he quoted when the Bill was introduced in Senate on January 2019 ( FeelTheBern.org, 2020).
The main purpose of Raise the Wage Act is to increase the Federal minimum wage gradually to $15 to employees over a period of six years starting from 2019. The annual salary increment is estimated to be of $1.30 per year reaching to $15 an hour by the year 2025. The bill also benefits tipped employees as well as newly hired employees who are less than 20 years old. The Act stipulates gradual increase in wage for tipped employees and new hired employees under 20 years old demanding the minimum wage of $15 per hour by the year 2027. The gradual increments in wage also applies to employees or individuals with disabilities; six years after its effective date (2019), the Federal minimum wage for them is stipulated to be $15 an hour. (House Committee on Education and Labor, n.d.) Furthermore, the goal of Raise the Wage Act is to ensure employees are guarantee a livable and consistent pay for tipped employees and youths. Also, the Act provides fair opportunities for individuals with disabilities and ensure fair pay as productive citizens.
Hunter ‘s observations, as cited in Gilbert, Specht & Terrell (1990) describes the essence of poverty as living in misery, hungry, overworked and yet gain nothing. His observation perfectly applies to contemporary low-income American families. Unfortunately, being employed does not constitute living off poverty in today’s society. According to 2018 statistics from the US Census Bureau, there has been a 2.3 million increase in fulltime employment for men and women. However, these statistics also showed that 38.1 million people still lived in poverty in 2018. In addition, the poverty rates for children under age 18 was estimated to be of 16.2 percent, 10.7 percent for adults aged 18 to 64 and 9.7 percent for those aged 65 and older (US Census Bureau, 2019). Raise the Wage Act is an initiative that represents hope for many low-income families. Based on the above-mentioned statistics, the Act will benefit approximately 38 million people by increasing their hourly wage to $15. The income increase will translate in available resources for many low-income American families. The extra income earned will facilitate access to available resources. Families will possibly be able to afford paying for daycare, rent, utilities and food, ensuring the families’ well-being and improving their quality of life.
According to the House Committee on Education and Labor, Raise the Wage Act will stimulate consumer spending, help businesses’ bottom lines, and grow the economy. The raise of the minimum wage would improve worker productivity and reduce employee turnover and absenteeism. It would also boost the overall economy by generating increased consumer demand (House Committee on Education and Labor, n.d.). A study conducted by economist Arindrajit Dube, as cited on Campbell (2019) showed that raising the minimum wage would significantly reduce the number of families living in poverty and concluded that a $12 minimum wage in 2017 would have lifted 6.2 million people out of poverty (Campbell, 2019). The bill sounds promising to many, living in poverty. The passing of the bill will facilitate means for families in needs giving them the opportunity to experience a more stabled housing and financing reducing stressors in their lives.
As social workers, it is our role to actively advocate for the well-being of our citizens and the families that we serve. It is our job to addressed low wages, as it represents a societal problem in the United States. Low wages translate to the lack of opportunity inequality, racial inequality, and income inequality putting minorities at loss. Therefore, it is important that we, as social worker advocate for changes in policies and elect leaders and presidential candidates who agenda be to address this issue. It is imperative that we serve as advocates for the underserved and unheard population, and ensure they receive and exercise the right to fair pay. As stated in the NASW Code of Ethics core values, it is our responsibility to exercise social justice on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and empower them to use their strengths and assist to enhance their capacity to address their own needs.
In order to have the bill pass it is important that we look at the other side of the coin. How the passing of this bill will impact small businesses and other businesses in general. To address the social issue of poverty and low wage in the United States, it is important that we take into consideration those responsible for creating jobs for our citizens. Despite the great intent of the act, I noticed the presence of goal ambiguity within the bill. The bill does not specify a plan for businesses for the implementation of the bill. Therefore, I foresee possible job losses and bankruptcy for small business due to their inability to keep up with the raise on wages. A 2014 study from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a $10.10 federal wage floor could lead to about 500,000 lost jobs because higher labor costs would lead to some employers to scale back their staff (Campbell, 2019). These unintended consequences could potentially harm our economy putting Americans at higher risk for poverty. It is important that we conduct further research on the positive and negative impact the passing of the bill may have in our society. The amendment of the bill will be a necessary based on the derived results from the studies conducted.
Furthermore, the amend should address the issues by developing specific plan of action to ensure the wellbeing of our society as a whole. This approach will also serve to engage the opposition with facts instead of empty promises hoping to get them onboard in the bettering of our society.