Several bills that would help workers and working families have recently been introduced, including minimum wage, pay equity, and paid leave proposals. The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which strengthens and closes loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act and provides effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal pay for equal work, was introduced on Jan. 30. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against workers for discussing their salaries; train women in negotiation skills; strengthen federal agencies’ investigative and enforcement abilities; and help small businesses adopt good pay practices. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in every Congress since 1997.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program to help ensure that people who work can take the time they need to address serious health and caregiving needs. The legislation, which would provide workers with a portion of their wages for up to 60 workdays or 12 weeks in a year, would cut by nearly 75 percent the share of families who fall into poverty after taking the unpaid leave provided by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Currently, only 17 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer programs. Low-income workers are less likely to have access to paid leave. CHN joined hundreds of national, state and local organizations in signing a letter of support to members of Congress for the FAMILY Act. The bill was introduced on Feb. 12.
On Feb. 7, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which was introduced in January. The bill would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024; phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers and sunset the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and workers under the age of 20; and require the minimum wage to rise automatically to keep pace with inflation. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the legislation (H.R. 582) would lift pay for 41 million workers – nearly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. Witnesses invited to testify at the hearing included experts from EPI, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the AFL-CIO, as well as minimum wage workers. The Coalition on Human Needs joined more than 350 organizations in signing a letter of support for the Raise the Wage Act. For more information on this bill, see CHN’s January 22 Human Needs Report.