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Patty Murray and Bernie Sanders bring fight for $15 to national stage

Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter
Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.

A proposal for a federal $15 minimum wage was rolled out in Congress Thursday. Washington U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the bill.

Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, among other jurisdictions, have all decided on a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Federally, the minimum wage is half that at $7.25. Senators Murray and Sanders have called that a "starvation wage."

They propose gradually raising the federal minimum starting this year, until it reaches $15 in the year 2024. Murray said it would give millions of Americans more economic security.

She said it will help women in particular, since 62 percent of minimum wage workers in the U.S. are women.

Murray: "Women, especially women of color, are disproportionately affected by the minimum wage, that is their salary. Under our bill 23 million women would get a raise."

She said when workers have more money, they are able to put more money into the economy.

Murray: "I get asked all the time, what are Democrats standing for? What we are standing for and fighting for, despite the chaos and all the other political swirling and uncertainty here in Washington D.C., is to focus on the issues that really matter to American families. Increasing the minimum wage is part of that."

Murray said she and Sanders know they have a fight ahead in Congress. Sanders said while Republicans may find a $15 minimum wage radical, he finds it radical that people “working 40-50 hours a week live in poverty."

Opponents of a $15 minimum wage say that rate will cause employers to cut jobs, leading to higher unemployment. The National Federation of Independent contends it could lead to job losses in almost every state.

Republican Congressional leaders have not supported recent attempts to raise the minimum wage. Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a House GOP leader, has not responded to a request for comment on the new proposal.