Merkley Calls on GOP to Stop Blocking Minimum Wage Vote & Start Standing Up for Middle Class

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley joined colleagues in calling on Senate Republicans to stop stalling progress on a range of issues that would give America’s middle-class families a fair shot, particularly the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 and provide automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living.

Over the past several months, Republicans have blocked several initiatives geared at leveling the playing field for middle-class Americans, including efforts to raise the minimum wage, reduce student loan debt and make college tuition more affordable, achieve pay equity, make child care more affordable, protect seniors’ Medicare, and boost jobs through manufacturing.

“There are too many hard-working families in Oregon and nationwide struggling to afford basic needs like food on the table, the mortgage or rent bill, and education for their children,” Merkley said. “It’s unacceptable, but what’s more frustrating is that my colleagues continue to block legislation that could offer real help to these families. We need a minimum wage Americans can actually live on. We need to make college more affordable. We need to make America work for working families.”

The Fair Minimum Wage Act would gradually raise today’s federal rate of $7.25 per hour minimum to $10.10 over a 30-month period. Under this bill, more than 30 million American workers would get a raise, including 1 million who would be lifted out of poverty.

On April 30, the Fair Minimum Wage Act stalled when senators voted 54-42 to begin debating the legislation — six votes short of the 60 needed for the measure to continue moving forward. All but one Senate Republican voted against debating the bill.

The minimum wage has lost over 30 percent of its purchasing power since it peaked in 1968. If the federal minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today. The current minimum wage in Oregon is $9.10 per hour and is linked to inflation.