Senate Democrats were unable to advance their bill to raise the minimum wage Wednesday, failing by a vote of 54-42, six votes shy of the 60 required to overcome a Senate Republican filibuster.
Several industry groups, including the National Council of Chain Restaurants, the National Restaurant Association, and the International Franchise Association, oppose the legislation.
Rebuff of the legislation, which was predicted, fell largely among party lines. Proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the bill would gradually raise the $7.25 hourly minimum to $10.10 over 30 months, with subsequent increases tied to inflation. The bill would also raise the tipped minimum wage for restaurant wait staff to 70 percent of the standard minimum wage. The tipped minimum wage is now $2.13 per hour before tips, which restaurants are allowed to offer as long as their servers’ hourly earnings with tips total a minimum of $7.25.
The NRA believes that dramatic increases to the minimum wage would significantly hurt the restaurant owners’ ability to create jobs and limit the opportunities restaurants can provide to current and future employees, including many teenagers and young adults, who begin their careers in the foodservice industry.
“The restaurant industry offers individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and skill-levels flexibility, opportunity and real pathways to success,” says Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president, policy and government affairs. “Eighty percent of all restaurant owners began their careers in entry-level positions within the industry. Restaurants provide a first start to teens and young adults, relief to displaced workers, and an opportunity to create a lasting career.”
The bill’s supporters argue that the minimum wage's buying power is in decline. Its top value occurred in 1968, when the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour, worth $10.86 in today's dollars.
“The Congressional Budget Office estimates a wage increase to $10.10 an hour could put half a million Americans—and potentially one million—out of work,” DeFife says. “Policymakers should focus on pro-growth policies and other necessary reforms—such as increased access to education and job training opportunities— in order to help restaurants continue to provide opportunity to millions of American workers.”
By Joann Whitcher