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By Jessica Goodheart for Capital and Main:
Sara Fearrington, a North Carolina waitress, joined the Fight for $15 campaign two years ago. A server at a Durham Waffle House, her take-home pay fluctuates between $350 and $450 a week, leaving her struggling to pay bills every month. She voted for Joe Biden, who had pledged to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. It was the first time Fearrington, who is 44, had ever voted in a presidential election.
“It would mean everything. It would create stability for my household,” she said of the impact that a higher wage could have on her and her family of five, which includes her husband, who suffers from a rare lung condition, and a granddaughter who has asthma.
The Democrats will need her support for their US Senate nominee next year if they are to maintain and strengthen their tenuous hold on the upper chamber. Some of 2022’s hotly contested Senate races are expected to play out in low-wage regions like Fearrington’s home state.
The purple states of North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have rock-bottom minimum wages of just $7.25 per hour – the current federal minimum. Georgia, where the Democrat Raphael Warnock will fight to hold on to the Senate seat he wrested from the Republican senator Kelly Loeffler in November, abides by the federal minimum wage, even though the one it has on the books is $5.15. Recent polling suggests Republicans could gain a seat in New Hampshire, another low-minimum-wage state, where the Democratic senator Maggie Hassan is facing a potential challenge from the state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu.
The federal minimum wage has not increased from $7.25 since 2009, and for 21 states in the country the minimum wage law that governs employers is no higher than the federal minimum. Fearrington earns an hourly wage of just $3.10 an hour as a tipped worker, making her income unpredictable.
Biden had hoped to include a $15-an-hour minimum wage increase in his $1.9tn economic stimulus package, which is expected to pass this week, and would also gradually phase out the sub-minimum wages for tipped workers like Fearrington. But prospects for the minimum wage provision evaporated after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the wage hike could not remain in the budget reconciliation bill where Democrats had placed it in order to avoid a Republican-led filibuster they lacked the votes to override.
“Then, at least, it’s a public conversation, where people are fighting for what they said they were going to fight for, for the poor and low-income people who turned out in record numbers in this past election,” said the Rev Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the National Poor People’s Campaign.
Whether such a conversation ever takes place is a growing concern to progressives and a source of discord within the coalition that brought Biden to the White House – at a moment when the battered US economy stands at a crossroads. On Friday, the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders made an 11th-hour effort to reinsert the provision into the stimulus package. Eight Democrats crossed over to vote it down, including two senators from his neighboring state, New Hampshire.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: House will vote Wednesday morning on $1.9tn Covid relief bill – as it happened | US news