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Why a $15 Minimum Wage Is Both Old Hat and New Fight

Fast Food Workers Demonstrate Nationwide For Better Pay

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images 

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The U.S. minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, hasn’t been raised since 2009. But 29 states and the District of Columbia and at least 53 cities and counties have lifted their pay floors above the national mandate. So have a number of corporations including Walmart Inc., which now offers minimum starting pay of $11 an hour, and Inc., which raised its minimum wage in the U.S. and the U.K. to $15 an hour. So President Joe Biden’s proposal to more than double the federal minimum wage, to $15 an hour, is at once dramatic and a little anticlimactic.

As a candidate, he proposed raising the minimum wage in stages to $15 by 2026. His initial proposal as president did not include details on how gradually it would be phased in. In public comments, he suggested a scenaro of a hike “between now and the year 2025, to $12 an hour, to $13,” eventually reaching $15. Biden also would like to scrap separate, lower minimum-wage thresholds that apply to workers who receive tips, and to people with disabilities.