Focus on Congress

From the office of Rep. Stephanie Murphy

Congresswoman spearheads effort that helped the U.S. House pass a minimum wage increase for the first time in 12 years

 

WASHINGTON—The U.S. House of Representatives passed historic legislation that U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy helped introduce, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage so all American workers can earn a living wage. The federal minimum wage has been frozen at $7.25 an hour for over a decade. The Raise the Wage Act would increase the minimum wage in seven steps until it reaches $15 an hour in 2025. This would particularly benefit families in the Orlando area, which has both a relatively high cost of living and the lowest median income of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. According to calculations by MIT economists, Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46 an hour—although higher than the federal minimum wage—is not a “living wage.” This means the amount is not sufficient for workers in Orange or Seminole counties to support their families.

“Congress has waited far too long to help put money in the pockets of more hardworking Americans, giving small businesses a boost that will help grow the economy for everyone. In the greatest country on earth, no person who has the dignity of a full-time job should suffer the indignity of not being able to provide for themselves or their loves ones. I’m proud to have led the effort to pass this in the House and move a step closer towards delivering a much-needed raise for working families in central Florida and all across the country,” said Murphy.

Murphy played a critical role in getting the Raise the Wage Act over the finish line in the House. She co-authored an amendment to the bill with Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) that would require an independent study of the economic and employment impacts of increasing the minimum wage, to be prepared after the federal minimum wage reaches $9.50 an hour but before it rises to $10.60. This will enable Congress to monitor the actual effects of the law, and make any necessary adjustments to the next scheduled wage increases. Even though over 30 amendments to the bill were filed, the Murphy-O’Halleran amendment was the only amendment successfully added to the bill during floor consideration.

In addition, Murphy helped broker an agreement with House leadership to extend the pathway from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour by one year, which helped garner additional support for the bill.

Since establishing the federal minimum wage in 1938, Congress has increased it 22 times. The most recent legislative change was in 2007, when Congress raised the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour, which took full effect in 2009. In the absence of recent federal action, many states have increased their minimum wage above the federal rate, and 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have a minimum wage that is higher than the federal rate.

Florida’s state minimum wage increased earlier this year from $8.25 an hour to $8.46 an hour. A worker who makes $7.25 an hour earns about $15,000 annually. A worker who makes $8.46 an hour earns about $17,500 a year. Neither wage comes close to qualifying as a living wage in the Orlando area, where the cost of living is in the top 20 percent of all 382 metropolitan areas nationwide.

According to federal and state statistics, the Orlando area has 164 different job categories—collectively employing over 575,000 workers—where the median hourly wage is below $15.00 an hour. This includes retail sales workers, childcare workers, food service workers, amusement park and recreation workers, home health aides, hotel clerks, security guards, pharmacy aides, and many categories of workers in the construction field. All workers earning below $15.00 an hour would directly benefit from legislation increasing the federal minimum wage to $15.00 by 2024.

The Murphy-supported bill that the House passed today is consistent with actions taken by major private employers in the Orlando area. Last year, Walt Disney World Resorts, which is central Florida’s largest employer, agreed to gradually increase worker pay to $15 an hour by October 2021. Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando have followed suit, announcing significant pay increases for their lowest-earning workers.

Video of Murphy’s remarks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in support of the Raise the Wage Act can be found here.

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