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Bernie Sanders picks a new fight over $15 minimum wage

CNBC logo CNBC 1/14/2019 Carmin Chappell

Bernie Sanders plans to reintroduce legislation this week to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, the liberal Vermont senator announced Monday.

"The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is a starvation wage," Sanders tweeted. "If you work 40 hours a week, you should not live in poverty."

The bill will likely die in Congress even as it gives Sanders a key issue to push on the campaign trail if he runs for president in the 2020 race, as he is widely expected to.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, introduced similar legislation 2015 and 2017, but both bills were stalled in Congress. With Democrats now controlling the House, the odds of a similar measure passing that chamber are higher. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed her support of a $15 minimum wage in the past. Yet, Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, which effectively dooms the bill's chances.

A representative for Sanders did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for additional comment.

The legislation being re-introduced by Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, previously counted several Democrats as co-sponsors, including potential 2020 presidential contenders Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009, even as 29 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted a higher rate, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

Sanders, who challenged Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary race, has historically supported the "Fight for $15" movement, which was first initiated by fast food workers in 2012 and has since come into the mainstream. Three states and even more cities, including New York City , have committed to increasing their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Opponents of a wage hike say a $15 minimum wage would pressure businesses to raise prices or cut staff to offset new cost pressures. Sanders' bill would gradually raise the minimum wage to mitigate any shocks to the economy, reaching $15 an hour in 2024, according to a statement.

In October, Amazon boosted its minimum wage to $15 an hour after a pressure campaign from Sanders, benefiting more than 250,000 employees. Sanders and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos exchanged pleasant messages on Twitter after the company announced the increase.

Sanders has also called on Walmart and McDonald's to raise their wages.

Related video: Bernie Sanders targets Walmart, calls for $15 minimum wage



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