Republican plan would raise minimum wage to $10 but only if businesses are required to ensure worker legality
WASHINGTON - Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton propose raising the federal minimum wage to $ 10, but only if companies must use the internet-based e-verify system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers .
Though the measure unveiled Tuesday morning is unlikely to go far in a Democratic Congress pushing for a $ 15 minimum wage, the Romney, R-Utah and Cotton (R-Ark) bill is the one Most Serious Republican Proposal Yet A subject that emerged as a progressive leader.
Both senators say their proposal gives American workers a dual benefit: raising the wage floor for the first time in more than a decade while ensuring that documented workers are the beneficiaries.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), left, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT)
"Our legislation would raise the floor for workers without costing jobs," said Romney. "We need to create opportunities for American workers and protect their jobs while eliminating one of the main drivers of illegal immigration."
Congress hasn't raised the federal minimum wage - currently $ 7.25 an hour - since 2007, though polls show Americans are largely in favor of it. Then-President Barack Obama urged Congress to raise the minimum wage in 2014, but the effort went nowhere. The House voted to raise the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour in 2019 only to see the Senate kill the proposal.
An increase in the minimum wage to $ 15 is part of President Joe Biden's $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package that is making its way through the Democrat-run house. But prospects in the evenly split Senate look bad as two Democrats - Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - have said they do not support inclusion in the measure.
More: A minimum wage of $ 15 would increase pay for millions but cost 1.4 million jobs, the report said
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which funded the Fight for $ 15 campaign to raise the minimum wage, said the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency to raise wages, especially for African Americans and Latinos on the front lines.
"They fed us, looked after us, served us, and delivered things for us," said Henry. "And they have risked their lives without proper personal protective equipment and without the wages in their pockets that allow them to stay home safely if they become infected."
Currently, 31 states have minimum wage laws that allow at least some workers to pay less than $ 10, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. No state has a minimum wage of $ 15 or more.
In a report by the Congressional Budget Office released earlier this month, it was estimated that raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour would increase the pay of up to 27 million Americans and lift nearly 1 million out of poverty, but also result in a loss of 1 , 4 would result in millions of jobs.
Higher wages increase the cost of employers to produce goods and services, and these costs are generally passed on to consumers, who tend to buy fewer goods and services, according to the CBO. As a result, employers who have to cut production tend to have fewer workers.
Supporters of the Romney Cotton bill, dubbed the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, say a $ 10 wage, introduced by 2025 and then pegged to inflation thereafter, will cost no more than 100,000 jobs and would raise wages for approximately 3.5 million Americans.
More: "We're Desperate": Proponents are calling for Congress to pass a $ 15 minimum wage increase, but the outlook is bleak
And by hiring E-Verify within 18 months of the bill being signed, they say the proposal would "preserve American legal jobs and remove incentives for increased illegal immigration."
Introduced in 1996, the E-Verify system allows employers to voluntarily submit information from a worker's Form I-9 to the Department of Homeland Security, which works with the Social Security Agency to determine workers' eligibility. More than 750,000 companies use the program for free.
Service workers quit during a rally in support of the wage increase law, which includes a minimum wage of $ 15 for tipped workers and included in President Joe Biden's US bailout plan on January 26 on the National Mall, on Jan. Notices and Signs 2021 in Washington, DC
Cotton has pioneered legislation to expand the E-Verify system in the past. In 2019, he and Senator John Boozman, R-Ark., Introduced laws that required businesses to use an internet-based system that employers can use to determine whether current or potential employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Four states - Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, and South Carolina - require E-Verify for all new hires, numerous others require it for some hires, and the federal government requires it for some professions.
Democrats generally oppose expanding electronic screening unless it is part of a larger immigration compromise that includes a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented residents.
More: Federal E-Verify System Spotlight After Mollie Tibbetts Death. This is how it works
The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, did not charge the Romney Cotton bill. However, she refuses to hire E-Verify, calling it an expensive and inefficient bureaucratic system that would expand government, compromise privacy, and do little to stop the illegal immigration the bill is targeting.
But Cotton said the current system is "unfair" to millions of workers seeing companies employ undocumented workers for cheaper wages.
“Ending the black market for illegal labor will open jobs for Americans. By raising the minimum wage, Americans can fill these jobs to better support their families, "he said." Our calculation does both. "
Contributor: Michael Collins
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Romney, Cotton is pushing for $ 10 minimum wage with E-Verify requirement
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