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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson January 21, 2021

Biden includes $15-an-hour minimum wage in his economic and coronavirus relief proposal

Along with almost every other Democratic presidential hopeful, Joe Biden called for a $15 minimum wage during the 2020 campaign.

Biden said his administration would "increase the federal minimum wage to $15 across the country and eliminate the minimum tipped wage." 

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour, though states and localities can pass higher minimum wages if they choose. Measured in inflation-adjusted dollars, the current minimum wage is lower than it was from the mid-1950s to late 1980s, and lower than it was in many years since then.

Meanwhile, the minimum tipped wage means that a tipped employee, such as a server in a restaurant, can be paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employer, as long as tips bring their total income past the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that Biden proposed to bolster the economy and battle the coronavirus pandemic includes a proposal for a $15 minimum wage.

"Throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40% of frontline workers who are people of color," the proposal said. Biden went on to call for Congress "to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities so that workers across the country can live a middle class life and provide opportunity for their families."

Among the general public, the $15 minimum wage is popular; the Pew Research Center found support among two-thirds of those polled. But business groups and their allies among lawmakers have traditionally fought minimum wage hikes, arguing that they would raise costs for employers and potentially cause job losses. 

Even supporters of raising the minimum wage express concern about having a $15 minimum applied equally across the country. They suggest that while it may make sense in high-cost urban areas, it could be more economically disruptive in lower-wage, lower-cost, rural areas.

So far, Biden's proposal is just that — a proposal — and it hasn't yet been turned into actual legislation. And even once it is put into a bill, there's no guarantee that it will pass.

However, by putting it into his $1.9 trillion relief proposal, Biden has prioritized this as a major part of his economic plan. That's enough to rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Biden-Harris campaign, "The Biden Agenda for the Latino Community," accessed Jan. 21, 2021

Joe Biden transition, "President-elect Biden Announces American Rescue Plan," January 2021

PolitiFact, "What's in Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan?" Jan. 15, 2021

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a $15 minimum wage," May 9, 2016

Department of Labor, federal minimum wage main page, accessed Jan. 21, 2021

Department of Labor, minimum tipped wage main page, accessed Jan. 21, 2021

Brookings Institution, "Even a divided America agrees on raising the minimum wage," Nov. 13, 2020

Washington Post, "Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour nationwide?" accessed Jan. 21, 2021

CNN, "The US minimum wage through the years," April 9, 2019

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