Hillary Clinton reiterated her support for a $12 minimum wage at a campaign event on Tuesday, a 20 percent jump over President Obama’s proposed $10.10 wage, but far less than the $15 wage backed by union activists and her rivals.
The Democratic frontrunner endorsed the wage increase at an Iowa forum, saying that it was needed to address income inequality.
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"I favor a $12-an-hour minimum wage at the federal level, and the reason is that would be setting it at a level that would be equivalent to the point in our history where the minimum wage was at its highest, and in inflation-adjusted terms that was in 1968," she said when asked about a living wage on Tuesday.
Clinton’s proposed hike would be more than 65 percent higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25, but falls short of the steeper increases supported by other Democratic candidates.
Insurgent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a $15 hourly wage in July and called on the rest of the Democratic party to support his effort to double the wage.
"In the year 2015, a job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage and must be raised to a living wage," he said in a release.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also supports a $15 minimum wage—a level that many unions have campaigned for over the past few years.
"I strongly support the national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, because it will lift millions of families out of poverty and create better customers for American businesses," O’Malley said in July.
Clinton questioned whether $15 that was economically feasible at the federal level without causing "job loss and dislocation if it were higher" than $12.
"I want to encourage more communities if they can afford to go higher but if not $12 will give us a good solid increase and it will bring us back to the historic high was," she said.
Clinton had flirted with supporting the $15 wage rate, as she courts major union support. In May and June, she praised labor giant Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for organizing the nationwide Fight for $15 protest movement. The union has spent tens of millions of dollars staging demonstrations in front of McDonalds and other fast food companies demanding higher starting wages, as well as more union-friendly policies.
Clinton said she still supports $15 wage level at the local level, particularly in expensive metro areas.
"I do however believe that other communities that want to want to go higher than $15 should be able to do so. So I have supported LA going to $15, Seattle going to $15, New York for some workers in New York City going to $15," she said.
Despite her tacks to the left on the minimum wage and other economic issues, politically influential unions are thus far holding off on endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary. SEIU, which endorsed Obama over Clinton in 2008, said that it has no plans to endorse any candidate yet.