U.S. House passes what Nevada Legislature wouldn’t: $15 minimum wage

two session ago
Activists rally for higher wages in 2015. SEIU Nevada Facebook photo.
two session ago
Activists rally for higher wages in 2015. SEIU Nevada Facebook photo.

The U.S. House Thursday voted to hike the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. 

The measure has virtually no chance of being enacted by the Republican-controlled Senate.

But it will be widely touted by Democrats heading into the 2020 campaign season. The current federal minimum wage is less than half of that amount — it has been stalled at $7.25 since 2009. This month marked a record for the longest period without raising the minimum wage since it was enacted. 

The legislation passed the chamber by a vote of 231-199, largely along partisan lines. Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill; six Democrats opposed it.

Nevada’s representatives voted along party lines. All three of Nevada’s Democratic members of the House are co-sponsors of the legislation.

Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, representing Nevada’s third congressional district, said in CD3 “125,000 workers will benefit from raising the minimum wage, which helps our families, community, and economy reach its full potential. I supported and voted for the Raise the Wage Act because a gradual minimum wage increase to $15 is what Southern Nevada needs.”

“One job should be enough to make ends meet in this country,” said Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada’s first congressional district. “It is disgraceful that Senate Republicans are working with Donald Trump to keep paychecks low for most workers while giving tax cuts to the rich.”

Titus pointed to an Economic Policy Institute analysis estimating in her Las Vegas district (CD1) the increase would raise wages for 184,500 workers, more than half the district’s workforce.

The same analysis estimates in Rep. Steven Horsford’s fourth congressional district, 127,500 workers would benefit from the increased wage.

“While Republicans wrote their GOP tax plan to benefit the wealthy and well-connected, House Democrats are laser-focused on growing the pay-checks of the hard-working men and women who are the backbone of our nation,” Horsford said.

Earlier this year, the Nevada Legislature passed and Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 by July 1, 2024.

The state’s minimum wage has been the same for an entire decade — $8.25 per hour if the employer doesn’t provides qualified health insurance, $7.25 per hour if they do. Despite  support for a federal $15 wage from numerous Nevada advocacy and labor groups, $15 was never on the table in Carson City.

In the Senate, Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender Bernie Sanders has introduced a companion version of the House minimum wage bill. He’s got 31 Democratic co-sponsors, including Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen. Like the bill the House passed Thursday, the Senate version is not expected to be allowed to see the light of day by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

Democrats on Capitol Hill are hoping the bill will give voters a glimpse of what’s possible if they elect a Democrat to the White House in 2020. Most of the Democrats vying for the nomination have endorsed the $15-per-hour minimum wage.

Two of those candidates, Joe Biden and Kirsten Gillibrand, said while campaigning in Nevada earlier this year that the state’s legislation to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2024 was inadequate.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.

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