HR Management & Compliance

Bid to Raise Federal Minimum Wage Fails in Senate—but Stay Tuned

A Democrat-led effort in
the United States Senate to raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour failed
last month.


The measure, proposed by
Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts,
would have boosted the federal minimum wage from the current $5.15 per hour to $7.25
per hour by Jan. 1, 2009. The measure was an amendment to an unrelated
Department of Defense bill (S. 2766). Although senators voted 52-46 to approve
the minimum wage increase amendment, approval required 60 votes.


Republicans countered
with a measure for a smaller hike to $6.25 per hour over 18 months, but that
was also rejected, by a vote of 53-45 (again, 60 votes were needed for
approval). Proposed by Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming,
it would have amended the federal Fair Labor Standards Act to also permit private
employers to offer compensatory time off instead of overtime pay.


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But Congressional efforts
to increase the minimum wage haven’t come to a halt. In the House of Representatives,
a Republican-proposed bill (H.R. 5647) is pending that would raise the minimum
wage to $7.25 per hour, and House Democrats are also attempting to include a
minimum wage increase amendment in an estate tax bill (H.R. 5638).


The federal minimum wage
has remained at $5.15 since 1997, but 20 states and the District of Columbia have hiked minimum
wages to above the federal level. California’s
minimum wage stands at $6.75 per hour, although legislation is pending to raise
it to $7.75 per hour. We’ll keep you posted.