This Thursday, the House will vote on the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would raise wages for nearly 40 million workers— including nearly 1.5 million LGBTQ people who are in urgent need of this protection. The Raise the Wage Act would increase the minimum wage to $8.55 this year and raise it gradually over the next six years, to $15 an hour in 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually to keep pace with growth in the typical worker’s wages. The Act would phase out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been stagnant at $2.13 since 1991, and phase out the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and workers under the age of 20.
Passing this law is especially crucial for LGBTQ people, who are more likely to be jobless, homeless, and poor.
That reality is particularly clear to me. I grew up in a single-parent household with a Black lesbian mother who struggled to cover the expenses associated with raising her three sons. My mother worked full-time at her low wage job to provide for her family, seeking overtime whenever she could, but her low-income wages were not enough. She worked tirelessly to make ends meet, taking night shifts and sometimes taking up a second job. Still, she relied on food stamps and other public assistance to provide a stable home for us.
My family’s story is not unique. Many other LGBTQ families, especially Black families, are desperate for increased wages. In a recent survey by Black Futures Lab, more than 90 percent of LGB+ respondents named low wages as their biggest problem.
As these results make clear, low wages are an urgent LGBTQ priority. Raising the minimum wage to $15 would decrease poverty by 46 percent among female same-sex couples and by 35 percent among male same-sex couples. Transgender people also stand to benefit enormously, as nearly one-third of transgender people live in poverty.
Women account for nearly 58 percent of the workers benefiting from an increased minimum wage, and LBTQ women are more likely than their non-LBTQ counterparts to receive public assistance, be unemployed, and be near or under the poverty level. Additionally, this law will help LGBTQ youth, who make up between 30 percent and 40 percent of homeless youth. Raising the wage and phasing out the subminimum wage for workers under age 20 will help reduce homelessness among LGBTQ youth by helping them afford housing and achieve economic independence from their families.
The Raise the Wage Act will provide much-needed economic security to LGBTQ workers. As more than 80 LGBTQ and allied organizations have asked, it’s time Congress passed the Raise the Wage Act. LGBTQ workers and their families cannot wait any longer to finally be paid a higher wage.
Tyrone Hanley is senior policy counsel for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Follow him on Twitter @tyrone_hanley.