Nevada’s $12 minimum wage proposal “not enough,” Gillibrand says

New York state o' mind
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand taking questions from media in Las Vegas May 6.

During a campaign visit to SEIU Nevada Monday, U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand pledged her support for a $15 minimum wage.

Gillibrand and scores of Democratic senators and members of Congress, including Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen and all Nevada Democratic members of the House, are co-sponsors of legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

In Nevada, state lawmakers are considering a bill to raise the wage to $12 by 2023.

Asked about the difference between the federal and state proposals Monday, Gillibrand said $12 is “inadequate.”

“It’s not enough,” she said when asked about Nevada’s proposal. “I think $15 is the minimum and we need to index for inflation, which means start at $15 and raise it every year.”

Wage issues, workers’ rights and income inequality took center stage during Gillibrand’s campaign stop at SEIU Monday afternoon. Her visit comes less than two weeks after SEIU and the Center for American Progress hosted a workers forum featuring six other presidential candidates.

During the visit, fast food workers and home care aides voiced concerns about the inability to survive on low wages — the current wage in Nevada is $7.25 for workers who have benefits and $8.25 without health benefits.

Darla Garcia, who has been working in the fast food industry, is hopeful that more candidates are talking about minimum wage issues, saying it is “one of the most important topics that could be discussed.”

“This is our livelihood,” she said. “It’s easy to support $12 versus $15 when you already make a good salary and have health care coverage.”

She added that she is glad presidential candidates are leading are supporting the call for $15, but is disappointed Nevada legislators aren’t echoing it. “By 2023, $12 is going to feel like $9,” Garcia said referring to the state’s attempts.

Gillibrand argued that increasing the wage doesn’t hurt businesses, a concern among Nevada lawmakers. “It doesn’t leave small businesses or the business industry behind,” she said.

While the federal $15 by 2024 legislation is stalled as long as Republicans control the White House and the Senate, she urged changes at the local and state level. “We’ve seen cities be successful at $15,” she said. “When whole cities (raise the wage) everyone thrives.” Several local governments nationwide have raised the wage to $15, or started to, and researchers have found the wage increases have not harmed the labor market.

Better wages and benefits wasn’t the only topic she spoke about. Gillibrand also vowed to fight against “right-to-work” laws and to stand behind efforts by workers to unionize. “I think the ability of workers to unionize and organize is the greatest economic engine that exists,” she said.

In addition to wage issues, she advocated for increasing workforce development and training, implementing paid sick leave — another proposal Nevada lawmakers are considering — and finding options for debt-free college.

“I think for a lot of people, education is so necessary and they don’t have access — and they certainly don’t have debt free access,” she said. “I think one of the best ways to get at that challenge is to offer free college for any young person who commits to public service. You do a year of public service you can get two years at a community college or state school for free. If you’d like to do two years (public service) you can get four years free.”

With more candidates being pressed about how their policies would specifically impact black and brown communities, Gillibrand said that institutionalized racism needs to be considered when considering solutions to economic disparities.

The government, she added, could provide a variety of solutions. 

“If you’re a small business owner and a woman or person of color, your access to capital is less available,” she said as one example. “I want to use the (Small Business Association) as a new framework to actually deal with economic inequality and use it as a tool to help women and minority-owned businesses.”

Gillibrand also said she would support a commission to study reparations, and prioritize ways to end high maternal mortality rates among black women — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris have previously brought up proposals for tackling the maternal mortality rate.

Gillibrand said with more women — in particular women of color — running for and winning a variety of offices, they are bringing their perspectives to the political table.

“It’s really important we change the players list and that we have diversity in Washington,” she said. “If you bring diversity to the table, you’re bringing a different life experience. That life experience is needed.”

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

1 COMMENT

  1. What would be better than raising the minimum wage by $X/week? A punitive “vacancy tax” on vacant land and unoccupied buildings, which property owners are so keen to avoid that it *reduces rents* by $X/week. Why would this be better? Because:
    (1) When you allow for income tax (and withdrawal of welfare, if applicable), a dollar *saved* is worth much more than a dollar *earned*.
    (2) By definition, the benefit of lower rents, unlike the benefit of higher wages, isn’t competed away in higher rents. Indeed, if landlords hear that wages have risen by $X/week, they might try to raise rents by the whole $X/week, not allowing for the Effective Marginal Tax Rate.
    (3) Nobody says lower rents would price workers out of a job! On the contrary, the scramble to avoid the vacancy tax would *create* jobs. And the lower rents would create more jobs, because jobs can’t exist unless (a) the employers can afford business accommodation, and (b) the employees can afford housing within reach of their jobs, on wages that the employers can pay. (Note the implication that the tax should apply to both commercial and residential property.)
    (4) Why should employers pay for a problem caused by deadbeat landowners?
    (5) The economic activity driven by a vacancy tax would broaden the bases of other taxes, allowing their rates to be reduced, so that the rest of us would pay less tax!

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