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Senate Votes Against Pay Raise for Minimum Wage Workers

The U.S. Senate failed to boost the federal minimum wage March 7, meaning the 2.5 million workers who make the $5.15 hourly federal minimum wage will not have seen a wage increase since 1997. An amendment offered by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to bankruptcy legislation (S. 256) would have raised the minimum wage by $2.10 over the next 26 months. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), about 7.3 million workers would have benefited from the wage hike to $7.25.

The measure, which needed 60 votes to win approval, lost 46–49, with four Republican senators backing it. Senate Republicans, seeking to deflect criticisms pointing to Republican lawmakers’ repeated efforts to block minimum wage increases, offered a poison pill amendment with a $1.10 hourly wage hike that also included devastating rollbacks in overtime and equal pay protections. That bill was defeated in a 38–61 vote.

“I believe that anyone who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year should not live in poverty in the richest country in the world,” said Kennedy, who vowed to offer the minimum wage amendment to other Senate bills later this year.

A full-time, year-round minimum wage worker in 2004 earned only $10,712, $4,493 less than the $15,205 needed to lift a family of three out of poverty.


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