(CNSNews.com) -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a self-identified socialist, touted a $15-an-hour minimum wage at a rally on Wednesday, but did not directly answer whether the minimum wage should be $100- or $50-an-hour and instead said that research shows that $15-an-hour is a “reasonable price.”
He also rejected the idea that raising the price of labor would cause some people to lose their jobs or not get hired in the first place.
Sanders lead the rally at the U.S. Capitol to advocate for an increase in pay to $15-an-hour as part of a “Fight for $15” labor effort alongside men and women who work for Congress, the Pentagon, the Smithsonian, Union Station and other federal landmarks.
CNSNews.com asked the senator, “Why did you choose $15 as the number for the minimum wage?”
Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats, said, “Well it wasn’t what I chose, I think it’s what the sentiment is all over this country. And the answer is that if you do the arithmetic and people have to pay rent, have a car, and take care of their kids, and provide heat, and buy food and buy medicine, that’s what it takes as a minimum to live a decent life.”
CNSNews.com then asked, “Why not choose like a $100 or $50 [per hour], why $15?”
Sanders said, “Because $15-an-hour moved, developed over several years, is a reasonable price. I can understand it, but that’s all.”
“You’re not concerned about anybody becoming unemployed because of this wage?” CNSNews.com asked.
“No, I think what the studies show in those communities that raise the minimum wage, actually employment has gone up,” said Sanders.
In his prepared remarks at the rally, Senator Sanders said, “Enough is enough, American workers deserve a decent wage. All of you know what’s going on in America today and that is the middle class is disappearing. We have millions of working people living in poverty and 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That is not what America is supposed to be about.”
“What America is supposed to be about is if you work 40 hours a week, you earn enough money to take care of your kids and your family,” he said. “You can’t do that on seven-and-a-quarter-an-hour and you can’t do it on nine bucks-an-hour, you can’t do it on $10 an hour.”
“The taxpayers of this country ought to make sure that when government contracts are made those employers that get those contracts pay workers a living wage, that they allow workers to form a union, that they provide good benefits to their workers,’ Sanders said. “A great nation will not survive in my view when so few have so much and so many have so little.”
“From coast to coast people are going out on the street and demanding a higher minimum wage,” he said. “It’s happening state after state and city after city are raising the minimum wage because workers and the American people are demanding that.”
“For your purpose here today is not only the right thing for workers here in the Washington area but you’re joining -- we’re all joining people all over this country to say that every worker in America has got to be treated with respect, with dignity, and with kinds of wages that enable them to take care of their family,” said the senator.
U.S. senators make $174,000 a year. Between 1789 and 1855, members of Congress received a daily payment of $6.00 (and then $8 per day starting in 1817), and did not start to receive an annual salary (of $3,000) until 1855.