Senators Cotton, Romney, Capito, Collins, Portman Introduce Bill to Raise Minimum Wage, Protect Jobs for Legal Workers

U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today introduced the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, legislation which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 and mandate E-Verify to ensure the wage increase only goes to legal workers. The bill will also index future minimum wage increases to inflation and includes protections for small businesses. Text of the legislation can be found here.

“American workers today compete against millions of illegal immigrants for too few jobs with wages that are too low—that’s unfair,” Senator Cotton said. “Ending the black market for illegal labor will open up jobs for Americans. Raising the minimum wage will allow Americans filling those jobs to better support their families. Our bill does both.”

“It’s been more than a decade since the federal minimum wage has been increased, leaving millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet,” Senator Romney said. “Our proposal would raise wages for nearly 3.5 million workers without costing jobs. Additionally, requiring employers to use E-Verify would ensure that businesses only hire legal workers—eliminating a key driver of illegal immigration.”

“This framework balances the needs of employers with opportunities for employees,” Senator Capito said. “This effort demonstrates there are long-term solutions that can be put forth and debated outside of a partisan process that has dubious merit in its implementation in the name of COVID relief.”

“I know how difficult it is for anyone trying to get by on the federal minimum wage, which has not been increased since 2009,” Senator Collins said. “Our bill provides a commonsense solution to help struggling families while avoiding the unintended consequence of small businesses being forced to eliminate jobs or reduce hours for their employees.”

“For years I have supported the way Ohio handles the minimum wage by indexing it to inflation. This takes some of the politics out of the issue, provides more certainty for small businesses and workers, and prevents the sudden spikes that cost jobs,” Senator Portman said. “I’m pleased to support this legislation to provide a responsible and gradual increase to the federal minimum wage after this pandemic ends and then indexing the minimum wage to inflation moving forward.  This approach will give both businesses and people the certainty they need and deserve. It also ensures that younger employees seeking their first job are not priced out of the workforce. Unlike the Democrats’ proposal, this bill would protect tipped workers by ensuring they are still able to work in a capacity that ensures they have larger take home pay. This legislation also ensures use of E-Verify. I’ve taken a lead on advocating for a workable E-Verify because of its proven effectiveness of deterring unlawful immigration and helping employers ensure they are hiring Americans. Hiring Americans for jobs available across the country will be crucial as we our economy continues to reopen and businesses get back on their feet.”

Summary of the Higher Wages for American Workers Act:

Minimum Wage Increase:

  • Gradually raises the federal minimum wage to $10 over four years, and then indexes it to inflation every two years.
  • Creates a slower phase-in for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
  • Prevents any increase during the Covid-19 emergency.

Mandatory E-Verify:

  • Mandates E-Verify for all employers, phasing in implementation over 18 months to allow small businesses additional time to comply.
  • Raises civil and criminal penalties on employers that hire unauthorized aliens and/or violate I-9 paperwork requirements.
  • Prevents fraud by requiring workers 18 and older to provide a photo ID to their employer for verification, which will be cross-referenced if a photo is available through the E-Verify system.