Rep. Barbara Lee Advocates $50 Minimum Wage in California, Citing Financial Struggles on $104,000 Salary

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) speaks during a rally to urge President Biden to use his executive powers to stop approving fossil fuel projects, phase out fossil fuels on federal lands and waters, and declare a climate emergency, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on September 14, 2023.

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee is standing by her support for a $50 federal minimum wage. That amount exceeds the current federal minimum wage in the United States by over six times. 

Lee is participating in a highly contested Senate race to succeed the late Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. She asserts that it is impossible for Californians to live on less than $100,000 due to the state’s high cost of living. 

During a Senate debate on Monday, Lee faced a question regarding the economic sustainability of her $50 an hour minimum wage proposal for small businesses. She asserted her experience as a small business owner, emphasizing the importance of supporting employees and ensuring they receive a fair wage.

‘Just do the calculations, just do the calculations,’ Lee said during the debate.  The current national minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour. The current minimum wage in California is $16 per hour.

Rep. Lee Urges Attention to Financial Struggles in the Bay Area, Citing Barely Adequate Incomes

This photograph taken on February 9, 2023 shows a Euro coin and US dollar banknotes in Moscow.


‘In the bay area, according to a recent report, it was stated that $127,000 for a family of four is just barely enough to get by,’ Lee said. ‘Another survey very recently found that the income for a family of one is $104,000, which is barely enough to get by.’

Lee recognized the suggestions to increase the federal minimum wage to $20 or $25 per hour, but she emphasized the importance of prioritizing the needs of Californians and determining what is financially feasible within the state.

Lee is currently representing California’s 12th district, which includes Oakland and Berkeley. She has been a member of the House since 1998. 

She is competing in a highly contested race for the US Senate, alongside Democratic lawmakers Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, as well as Republican former professional baseball player Steve Garvey.

Schiff and Porter have both expressed their backing for a significant increase in the minimum wage, suggesting a range of $20 to $25 per hour. According to Garvey, the minimum wage is at an appropriate level, as mentioned during the debate.

The federal minimum wage has remained stagnant since 2009, despite the rising cost of living. Efforts to increase the federal minimum wage have faced ongoing challenges in Washington, despite the Democrats’ persistent advocacy.

In 2021, there was a notable attempt by Democrats to incorporate a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour into their COVID relief legislation. However, this endeavor faced opposition from Republicans and certain moderate Democrats, ultimately preventing its inclusion.

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