Sen. Bernie Sanders calls for $17 per hour federal minimum wage

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 6:09 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is calling on Congress to pass a $17 per hour federal minimum wage hike that would rollout over the next 5 years. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009 when it was raised to $7.25 per hour.

“People who work 40-50 hours a week shouldn’t live in poverty. It is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage,” Sanders said.

The Department of Labor reports the minimum wage rose to $7.25 in 2009, after Congress passed an amendment in 2007 that steadily increased wages from $5.85.

Read more on the history of minimum wage increases here

The Economic Policy Institute reports since 2009 the minimum wage has lost 27% of its purchasing power due to cost of living increases. The Institute adds, 23 states and Washington D.C. raised state minimum wage in 2023, including Sanders’ own Vermont. Starting January 1, 2023, Vermont raised its state minimum wage to $13.18 per hour. That is an increase of $0.63 from the previous minimum wage of $12.55.

Washington News Bureau Reporter Jamie Bittner asked Sen. Sanders how he believed the $17 per hour minimum wage he is advocating for would impact small businesses.

“This is over a 5-year period. I don’t think it will be much of an impact. The minimum wage is going up in Vermont. It’s close to $15 a hour now. So I don’t think it would be very impactful,” he said, adding, “bottom line is also that when you raise wages in Vermont, in Burlington for example, the cost of housing is outrageously high. People can’t afford it. So when you raise the minimum wage, you put more money into people’s pockets. And with that, they’re able to go out and purchase products, which in fact creates more jobs. So I think it’s good economics. And, it’s the moral and right thing to do. People should not be having to work two or three jobs to pay the rent.”

Sen. Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, said the committee will mark up the bill to raise the minimum wage to $17 in June. That’s the next step in the process to bring the bill out of committee.

In 2021, Sen. Sanders’ push to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour failed to pass as part of President Joe Biden’s stimulus package. However, President Joe Biden has signaled he’d support a $15 minimum wage.