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• Trump never spoke of people not deserving a wage, and he never specifically mentioned essential workers. His concern was that minimum wage increases could lead to job losses.
• Trump’s administration issued clear opposition to a $15 minimum wage bill that passed the House in 2019.
• However, in a debate Trump did say that he’d “consider it to an extent. … in a second administration.”
As part of the Scranton vs. Park Avenue contrast he’s trying to draw against President Donald Trump, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has sought to highlight the differences between his stance on raising the minimum wage and Trump’s.
At an event in Dallas, Pa., on Oct. 24, Biden said that Trump "thinks that $15 an hour minimum wage is too much for essential workers."
In reality, Trump’s position is a bit more complicated than that.
The federal minimum wage has been fixed at $7.25 an hour since 2009. In all, 29 states (and a range of cities) have set a higher minimum wage, but in remainder of the country, the $7.25 federal floor prevails.
Biden, for his part, has expressed clear support for raising the minimum wage to $15, saying on his campaign website that he would "increase the federal minimum wage to $15." Biden reiterated this position during the final presidential debate on Oct. 22 when moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News asked about it.
"Do you think this is the right time to ask them to raise the minimum wage? You of course support a $15 federal minimum wage," Welker said at the debate.
"I do," Biden responded.
During this exchange, Trump interjected, offering a position that wasn’t as clear-cut in favor of a wage hike as Biden’s was, but that also didn’t close the door on it.
Trump expressed concern that the wage hike could result in employers laying off lower-wage employees.
"How are you helping your small businesses when you’re forcing wages? What’s going to happen, and what’s been proven to happen, is when you do that, these small businesses fire many of their employees," Trump said.
Trump added his preference for state-by-state minimum wages. "Alabama is different than New York. New York is different from Vermont. Every state is different. It should be a state option." (It’s worth noting that no change would be required for this to happen, since states can already set a minimum wage higher than the federal level.)
That said, Trump added that he’d "consider it to an extent … in a second administration. But not to a level that’s going to put all these businesses out of business. It should be a state option."
One thing that’s clear is that the White House officially opposed a bill to enact $15 minimum wage in 2019.
That came when the House was considering H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act. All but six Democrats voted for the measure while only three Republicans voted for it. The bill would phase in a $15 minimum wage over a seven-year period.
As the measure was being considered in the House, the White House weighed in, as White Houses often do on major pieces of legislation, in a document known as a Statement of Administration Policy.
The administration wrote that a $15 an hour minimum wage would "reverse" recent economic progress "and hurt workers. … The successful efforts to reduce taxes, eliminate regulations, and implement fairer trade deals are driving economic growth and increasing workers’ take-home pay far more effectively and efficiently than legislation like H.R. 582, which would eliminate jobs and reduce total wages for American workers."
The document concluded that "if H.R. 582 were presented to the president in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he veto it."
The Trump campaign did not respond to an inquiry to clarify the president’s current position.
A final note: Some economic commentators, including some who ordinarily lean liberal, have previously told PolitiFact that Trump has a point on geographic variations. They suggest that while a $15 minimum wage may be justified in metropolitan areas with high costs of living, it would be disruptive to the economy in lower-cost areas, with up to half of workers getting a raise, potentially resulting in job losses and inflation.
Biden’s statements have not directly addressed the question of whether it would support regional variations in a minimum wage bill, and his campaign did not clarify that point to PolitiFact. The bill that passed the House did not have a mechanism for regional variations.
Biden said Trump "thinks that $15 an hour minimum wage is too much for essential workers."
Trump has expressed skepticism about a $15 minimum wage in the past, and his administration issued clear opposition to a $15 minimum wage bill that passed the House in 2019.
However, in the debate held just a few days before Biden’s comment, Trump did say that he’d "consider it to an extent … in a second administration."
Trump never spoke about people not deserving a wage, and he never specifically mentioned essential workers. His concern was that minimum wage increases could lead to job losses.
We rate Biden’s statement Half True.
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Joe Biden, remarks in Dallas, Pa., Oct. 24, 2020
Joe Biden campaign website, accessed Oct. 30, 2020
Rev.com, "Donald Trump & Joe Biden Final Presidential Debate Transcript 2020," Oct. 22, 2020
U.S. Department of Labor, "State Minimum Wage Laws," accessed Oct. 30, 2020
Congress.gov, "H.R. 582 - Raise the Wage Act," accessed Oct. 30, 2020
Trump White House, Statement of Administration Policy, July 15, 2019
Forbes, "Trump Says He’d ‘Consider’ $15 Per Hour Federal Minimum Wage, But Prefers To Leave It To States," Oct. 23, 2020
PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a $15 minimum wage," May 9, 2016
PolitiFact, "John Boehner says Barack Obama has promised veto unless sequestration cuts are eliminated," July 29, 2013
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