With legislation to increase the federal minimum wage pending in Congress, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline hosted a roundtable discussion to hear from working Rhode Islanders, the business community, advocates, and economists on the need to raise the minimum wage. The lawmakers held the event at the Community Action Partnership of Providence on Tuesday.
Whitehouse is a cosponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which is expected to get a vote in the Senate in coming weeks. Both Langevin and Cicilline are consponsors of the companion bill in the House. The legislation would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, and then index it to inflation.
“Despite working long hours, too many Rhode Island families struggle to pay rent and put food on the table. Meanwhile, businesses see customers with less money to spend,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over wage-related legislation. “It’s time to give hard working Rhode Islanders the living wage they deserve, and I thank all of today’s participants for sharing their perspectives.”
“No one in this country should work a full-time job and not be able to make ends meet,” said Congressman Langevin. “Raising the minimum wage is an opportunity creator that will strengthen the middle class and improve the lives of hardworking Americans who want to support their families. That money, in turn, goes back into the local economy. It’s a win-win.”
“Too many U.S. workers who are earning the minimum wage are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet,” said Cicilline, who is an original cosponsor of the Fair Minimum Wage Act. “This is wrong and a reflection of growing income inequality in our country. When the middle class prospers, all of us are better off and raising the minimum wage will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, create jobs, and strengthen the economy.”
“It is great that there is an effort to increase the minimum wage,” said Melissa Husband, Executive Director of CAPP. “What we see here at Community Action Partnership of Providence is that many residents we serve need more than an increase in the minimum wage, but we are glad to see this step in the right direction.”
As authorized under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal minimum wage requires employers to pay workers at least $7.25 per hour. That rate hasn’t changed since 2009. Currently, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage earns less than $15,000 per year – below the poverty level for a family of two.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly had the headline "Reed, Whitehosue, Cicilline call for Minimum Wage Increase."
We apologize for the error.