As the 2016 presidential election heightens, so does the debate centered around raising the federal minimum wage. Candidates across the political spectrum have taken a stance on this hot topic. One of the earliest candidates to pave the way, was Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. In his May 2015 announcement, he shared that he is fighting for a $15 minimum wage. He believes that, 'The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised. The minimum wage must become a living wage, which means raising it to $15 an hour over the next few years.'
Sander’s 'living wage' is one of the paramount issues that has propelled his presidential campaign. He believes that no full time worker should live in poverty and advocates for incremental increases to the minimum wage -transforming it into his idea of a living wage. Additionally, he believes that this policy will strengthen and support a labor market that will ensure its workers have power over their economic futures. Bernie Sander’s is no longer in the running to be the next President, but his liberal ideals surrounding the minimum wage have heavily influenced the election.
Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, also advocates for a higher minimum wage. Although, her first proposal was not in line with Sander’s 'fightforfifteen.' In July 2015, Clinton suggested a nuanced proposal of a $12 minimum wage. As the tensions along the campaign trail rose, so did her wage floor. In April 2016, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, found great success passing a bill that gradually raises New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The movement garnered Clinton’s praise and attention, as she believes that this law is the ideal model.
New York’s law not only gradually raises the minimum wage in and around New York City to $15, but also adds a separate wage floor in upstate New York that will only climb to $12.50. This ensures that areas with a lower cost of living are not bombarded with wages employers cannot afford to pay. Over time, the democratic nominee’s stance has shifted to a $15 minimum wage with caveats. She believes a new wage floor would have to be phased in gradually, and the effects of the hike would have to be evaluated in areas with lower costs of living.
Although most of the Republican presidential candidates were opposed to the idea of raising the federal minimum wage, one candidate broke the mold with his recommendation early in the race. In September 2015, Ben Carson voiced his stance on the matter of increasing the federal minimum wage. He shared his view that the country, 'should index [the new federal minimum wage] so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America.' His proposal involves tying the minimum wage to inflation and having it automatically increase with prices. It also entailed a two-tiered federal minimum wage. The first tier would contain a normal rate, and the second tier a lower rate for younger workers.
Another Republican candidate that recently spoke about raising the federal minimum wage is Donald Trump. His view on this economic policy has also changed immensely with the progression of the 2016 election. Initially, Trump opposed increasing the federal minimum wage. During a debate in November 2015, he commented that American wages are too high, and that people can live on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. Trump voiced that, 'Taxes too high, wages too high,' and that 'we are not going to be able to compete against the world… People have to go out, they have to work really hard and they have to get into that upper stratum.'
With political pressure bubbling, Trump responded quite differently when CNN asked him months later if he would consider raising the federal minimum wage. In May 2016, he told commentators that he is, 'looking at that' and 'open to doing something with it.' After the culmination of the 2016 Republican Convention in July, Donald Trump had yet another change of heart. After the convention, Trump told Bill O’Reilly of Fox News that he would support raising the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. Trump believes, 'You need to help people.' Even though, '[he] know[s] it’s not very Republican to say.'
Although the policy proposals of these presidential candidates vastly differ, all of them entail making a change to the federal minimum wage. From wage hikes, to incremental increases, to indexing, the minimum wage will undoubtedly embark on a new journey in the upcoming years. As the election carries on, watch whether the details of this vibrant topic further evolve or remain the same.Want to go back and read our previous minimum wage articles? Click here for part one, and here for part two.