By Katherine F. MendezSamantha L. Brooks, and Anastacia E. Topaltzas

Seyfarth Synopsis: In our third installment in where the potential Presidential candidates stand on key labor and future of work issues, we focus on the candidates’ positions on minimum wage.

Since our last post, and on the heels of the New Hampshire primary, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, and Andrew Yang dropped out of the 2020 Democratic Presidential race.  While Bennet and Patrick both supported raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Yang believed the issue should be left to the states and instead campaigned on his plan to institute a $1,000 per month universal basic income (his so-called “freedom dividend”).  While some raise in minimum wage is certainly not the most controversial of the potential candidates’ ideas, some commentators believe that a raise in minimum wage will add to increased labor costs and will eventually cause employers to choose to invest in technology (robots, perhaps) rather than human capital.  Think: drug store or supermarket cashiers being replaced by self-service check-out machines; or assembly line workers being replaced by a robotic assembly line.  (Yang himself believed that the robot apocalypse is coming.)

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who helped some state and local governments implement higher minimum wages (including New York), has continued to advocate for a $15 federal minimum wage and for eliminating the tipped minimum wage. Pete Buttigieg, like Biden, supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and eliminating the tipped minimum wage.

Michael Bloomberg similarly plans to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.  Interestingly, in December 2019, while in Stockton, California (a city that implemented a universal basic income pilot program), Bloomberg commented that he supports a universal basic income, but he mentioned that New York City had attempted a similar plan but that it was “very unsuccessful.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard similarly supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and has expressed that universal basic income is a “good idea.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar strongly supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and in January of 2019, she and Sen. Sanders co-sponsored the Raise the Wage Act, which would have gradually raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour. (This is also supported by Buttigieg, Gabbard, Sanders, and Warren.)  While the Raise the Wage Act passed the House in July 2019, it died in the Senate shortly thereafter.  It is expected to be resurrected in a Democrat-controlled Senate or if a Democrat is elected President in November.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is among the most vocal leaders when it comes to raising minimum wage. He co-sponsored the Raise the Wage Act in 2019.

Tom Steyer supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15, but has also stated that he supports raising it to $22.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a staunch supporter of the Raise the Wage Act, and has said that on the first day of her administration she would sign an executive order requiring all federal contractors to pay a $15 hour minimum wage.

President Donald Trump has occasionally expressed that the current $7.25 federal minimum wage is too low, but his administration has not endeavored to raise the minimum wage.  In fact, in July 2019, the Raise the Wage Act did not make it to the Senate, and in November 2019, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance confirming that the $7.25 federal minimum wage supersedes any higher wage established by a state or local government.

The next installment of our campaign coverage will address the candidates’ positions on training and preparing employees for the future of work.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Counseling & Solutions Team.