Debate on minimum wage increase continues as Capito introduces new bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As a mobile billboard pushing support for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 circled the Charleston office of U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Thursday, she announced she was part of a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.

Capito announced she joined Senators Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to introduce the Higher Wages for American Workers Act. The bill gradually raises the federal minimum wage to $10 over four years, and then indexes it to inflation every two years.

According to Capito’s office, it also creates a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees and prevents any increase during the COVID-19 emergency.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

Capito told reporters that this bill is a better way to raise the minimum wage than the $15 an hour proposed inside the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill by President Joe Biden as of Thursday afternoon.

“In rural parts of the country, it’s really going to be a large burden and will probably in the end, do what the CBO report says, cost jobs. They say we could lose 1.4 million jobs,” she told the media after speaking with small businesses.

“There’s a better way to do it. We should have a broader discussion on it than jam it into this bill.”

Capito is referencing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which estimated recently that losing 1.4 million jobs would be the impact of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. The CBO also said it would increase the deficit by $54 billion over 10 years, but 900,000 people would be out of poverty.

According to the Washington Post, Senate parliamentarian were hearing arguments on whether the increase on wage would be allowable under the Senate rules that will govern consideration of the legislation as of Thursday afternoon.

Ryan Frankenberry, the state director of the West Virginia Working Families Party (WVWFP) told MetroNews he does not agree with Capito’s proposal.

“It doesn’t surprise me to see Senator Capito to take such a weak position. To suggest we should raise the minimum wage to only $10 in four year is ridiculous. That’s 50 cents per year in places,” he said.

In West Virginia, the minimum wage is $8.75 for all workers, while the subminimum wage for tipped workers stands at only $2.62 per hour.

Frankenberry joined Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage (OFW) during a Zoom press conference Thursday that released data suggesting the majority of West Virginians support a raise in minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage

63% of West Virginians report supporting a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 when they are told that 43% of West Virginia workers (including paramedics) earn less than $15 an hour, according to data from OFW. The polling was done between February 20 and 22 by GBAO Research Strategies with 600 respondents.

OFW and WVWFP were part of the billboard that circled Charleston on Thursday including stops at Capito’s office, the Charleston office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the state Capitol.

The mobile billboard read: “Hey Senator Manchin! 63% of West Virginians support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. We need your support to #RaisetheWage!”

“Hey Senator Capito! 63% of West Virginians support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. We need your support to #RaisetheWage!”

Other polling from OFW released included support for the Raise the Wage Act in Biden’s package:

– 66% of West Virginians support OFW: a full minimum wage plus tips on top. This support level grows modestly when adding the messaging that invokes West Virginia restaurant servers being mostly women who use food stamps at nearly three times the rate of other workers (71% support).

– People are paying attention to the minimum wage discussion. 87% of West Virginians have recently heard something about Congress raising the minimum wage.

– 59% of West Virginians support the $1.9 trillion stimulus relief bill that includes a full minimum wage to service industry workers.

Frankenberry said he is encouraged by the survey data. He said West Virginia is more impacted than many other states when it comes to minimum wage.

“We all know people that are making below $15 per hour. 43% of our state is making below $15 per hour right now,” he said.

“When we say 43% of the state workers are making less than $15 per hour now, imagine what that does to the state when we raise these people up.”

VIEW: The complete data gathered by OFW and WVWFP

WATCH: The press conference held by the WVWFP:

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