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Congressional Democrats are scrambling to keep their $15 federal minimum wage proposal included in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan this week as they face an unlikely obstacle: centrist members of their own party.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, two of the party’s most moderate Democrats, have both said they are opposed to using budget reconciliation — a maneuver that allows the majority party to speed through high-priority fiscal legislation without support from the minority party — to pass the minimum wage hike.
The proposal was formerly known as the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 and would incrementally increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by the year 2025.
Progressive members of the party, like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have signaled their confidence that the legislation will be included in Biden’s first COVID-19 stimulus package, but Manchin, in particular, has doubled down on his opposition in recent days.
Now, the former governor of West Virginia is facing criticism from constituents and activists back home who support the proposed increase.
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the country
Even before COVID-19, West Virginia had the 6th highest poverty rate in the country, according to US Census Bureau data. An estimated 278,734 West Virginians – 16% of the population – lived in poverty in 2019, according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
Data from the Economic Policy Institute indicates that a quarter of a million West Virginians, about 14% of workers in the state, would directly benefit from a $15 minimum wage.
Those impacted workers would take home, on average, nearly $4,000 extra dollars each year, the economic policy institute estimated. The total annual wage increase for all affected West Virginia workers would be $987 million annually.
Manchin reaffirmed his opposition last week at a virtual meeting with West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign, a progressive group fighting for working-class residents in the state.
Though the meeting was closed to the media, attendees told reporters in an online press conference immediately afterward that Manchin “refused to budge,” according to The Guardian.
“I feel like he’s got his head in the clouds and he doesn’t understand what’s happening to poor people in West Virginia,” Brianna Griffith, a restaurant worker and rafting guide told the outlet.
“Enough is enough! We are tired of putting the filthy rich in silk beds & us sleeping on straw. I’ll meet w/ him. I will be one of his constituents.” Pam Garrison @WestVirginiaPPC
READ: Sen. Manchin’s office seeks meeting w/ #PoorPeoplesCampaign: https://t.co/Srd0vfhZWV pic.twitter.com/VCio44HhiY
— Poor People’s Campaign (@UniteThePoor) February 16, 2021
Manchin says he’s worried about how the increase could hurt small businesses
West Virginia’s current minimum wage is $8.75 an hour, more than a dollar above the federal minimum wage, but still much less than the $24 that would be in place had the federal minimum wage kept up with productivity growth, according to …read more
Source:: Business Insider