Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reintroduced his $15 minimum wage bill in the Senate today. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, gradually eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and index it thereafter to inflation – meaning, the wage automatically goes up every year without a Congressional vote. Bernie is the act’s sponsor, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), who had previously sponsored a $12 minimum wage bill, is original co-sponsor. The $15 minimum wage was a central plank in Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. His opponent, Secretary Clinton, campaigned on an increase to $12 an hour. An impressive 21 Democrats have signed on as additional co-sponsors, including not only Murray but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, compared to just five last year.
Here is how some leading media outlets report the story:
Pretty straightforward. Now, here is how Daily Kos front pager Laura Clawson reported the story:
That’s a perfectly good headline. I mean, there is the technicality that Sanders is an independent, but functionally, he’s a Democrat. This is a Senate Democratic bill, as Clawson’s story explains:
Congressional Democrats have unveiled their strongest minimum wage plan yet. And while Republicans will block this, it’s important to get the word out: this is what we’d be moving toward if Democrats were making the laws.
…(insert block quote from Think Progress story here)…
Seven years is slow, but otherwise, this plan checks some important boxes—in particular, raising the tipped minimum wage and setting it so that the minimum wage rises automatically rather than requiring a fight each and every time it’s raised. If Democrats had done that the last time they raised the minimum wage, it wouldn’t still be stuck at $7.25 an hour nearly eight years after its last increase, years during which it’s lost nearly 10 percent of its purchasing power. The Raise the Wage Act would also ensure that people with disabilities are paid the full minimum wage.
Every single time you talk about lawmakers backing a $15 minimum wage, you have to remember that it’s low-wage workers who pushed $15 into the realm of possibility, organizing around a number nearly $5 higher than the high end of Democratic proposals at the time. Their organizing has changed the discussion—and in two states and several large cities, it’s helped change the law.
Notice what’s missing? OK, let’s take a look at the portion of the Think Progress story Clawson quoted:
Their legislation, dubbed the Raise the Wage Act, would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing it from its current level of $7.25 an hour to $9.20 an hour once it’s passed and then adding about a dollar a year for seven years until it gets to $15. It would rise automatically after that as the country’s median wages rose.
The bill would eventually do away with the separate tipped minimum wage, which currently allows those who earn tips as part of their compensation to be paid as little as $2.13 an hour by their employers. It would increase that rate to $3.15 and then gradually raise it so it would eventually reach $15 an hour.
Think of any story you have ever read about a bill’s introduction in Congress. Every single one of them will include, at a minimum, the name of the sponsor. Where are the names in the Daily Kos piece? The entire report about the introduction of the bill is devoid of a name. This would not receive a passing grade in an undergraduate journalism course. Take these two paragraphs in the Think Progress piece, which appear immediately before the bit Clawson quotes read:
Just two years ago, that was not the party line. In 2015, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) put forward a bill to raise the wage to $12 an hour. It was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (MN) and Raúl Grijalva (AZ) who introduced a $15 minimum wage a few months later. While Sanders backed a $15 wage in his bid for the party’s presidential nomination, his rival and eventual nominee Hillary Clinton supported a $12 wage.
Now all of those members of Congress have come together to support a $15 wage.
Hey, look, names! From Daily Kos, we get the not-quite-right “Democrats.” We get “Their,” referring to Democrats. Even though the sponsor, once again, was Bernie Sanders, (I-VT). They doesn’t just fail to mention the sponsor’s name; the description they provide is written in a way to camouflage him. I’m surprised she didn’t include a photo from the announcement ceremony with a big black blob over Sanders, like the Soviets used to do who were photographed with Stalin by later fell from grace.
Now, I’ve always been fine with calling Bernie a Democrat, since he is member of the Democratic Senate Caucus, votes for the Democratic candidate for chamber leader, endorses Democrats in every election, and otherwise is functionally part of the Democratic side. His Independent label never struck me as any more important than the name of the Minnesota “Democratic” state party being the Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. It’s just a name, resulting form local history; in practice, they’re Democrats. But that’s not what Laura Clawson and the Daily Kos staff have been insisting on for the past year and a half. Daily Kos is one of the nation’s leading proponents of the “He’s Not! Even! A Democrat!” denunciation of Bernie Sanders. Except, apparently, this time. Now, a Sanders-sponsored bill is a bill unveiled by “Congressional Democrats.”
But don’t think Clawson is just generally stubborn about giving credit where it is due. She makes sure to admonish us that “every single time” we talk about lawmakers – unnamed lawmakers – backing a minimum wage bill, we forget about the lawmakers who proposed and wrote the legislation in Congress, or who popularized it by, say, making it a prominent issue in a presidential campaign. We should focus instead on the low-wage workers of the Fight for Fifteen movement. Suffice it to say, she has never, ever written a legislative story in this manner before. But, hey, isn’t that nice that she’s recently developed this appreciation for the role of street activists in the legislative process? No wonder she could only pay attention to the boring ol’ Senate long enough to remember that “Democrats” supported this bill – she’s just too gosh darn impressed with the Fight for Fifteen people! Yeah, that’s it.
Thank you, Democrat Patty Murray, sponsor of the previous $12 minimum wage bill, for coming over to Sanders’ position. Thank you, Fight for Fifteen activists, who began the movement that went on to reach the Congress and the mainstream political discussion. And, oh yeah, thank you, Democrat(?) Bernie Sanders, for sponsoring this bill, for carrying the torch for the $15 minimum when the party establishment was vacillating between weakness and hostility, and for dragging so many of your Democratic colleagues into the light over the past year.
I swear, the hostility towards Bernie Sanders is just pathological with these people.