The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 passed the United States Senate yesterday on a vote of 94-3 after nine days of debate. The Senate bill and the House version that passed earlier this month, will raise the minimum wage from $5.15-an-hour to $7.25 by 2009. The Senate's version of the bill, however, includes $8.3 billion in tax breaks that were not included in the House's version. The bill will next be sent to a conference committee for Representatives and Senators to agree upon a final version. Republicans, including President Bush, have signaled that they will not support the bill unless the tax exemptions are included.
The act also provides that the Fair Labor Standards Act apply to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a US territory that has been exempt from US labor and immigration laws. Ms. magazine brought the plight of the predominately female, low-wage work-force in the CNMI to the attention of readers across the nation in an investigative report, "Paradise Lost."
Echoing the opinion of many Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) said of the bill "It should not be loaded up, it should not be complicated... The notion that we are still using this as a bargaining chip, dickering for various other tax breaks I think makes no sense. It's time to get this done."