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Tennessee Minimum Wage Could Rise To An Unprecedented $20: All You Need To Know

The new bill could raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to an $20, the highest in the country.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Ian Waldie
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Ian Waldie

The state of Tennessee could see its minimum wage rise from $7.25 an hour to an unprecedented $20 if a new bill passes in the General Assembly. The bill spearheaded by Tennessee Representative Gloria Johnson and Tennessee Senator Sara Kyle aims to potentially transform the economic landscape for countless individuals in the state and it is making its way through the tedious legislative process. Far from just a policy amendment, the bold endeavor is likely to struggle to meet its desired outcome.


The bill, HB 2602/SB 2646, was introduced by Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Senator Sara Kyle, D-Memphis on January 31 in the state senate. “As introduced, increases the hourly minimum wage to $20.00, or the federal minimum wage established under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, whichever rate is greater,” the bill reads.

The state of Tennessee is currently one of 20 states that have a minimum wage set at the federal minimum, as per the U.S. Department of Labor. On the contrary, the state of Washington currently has the highest minimum wage of $16.28 which is significantly more than that of Tennessee.

“We are behind,” Johnson said during a press conference according to a WSMV report. “People are struggling to keep the lights on and keep food on the table. Other states that have raised the wage are doing well with it,” Johnson added. If the bill passes, Tennessee will by far have the highest minimum wage in the US.

Upon its introduction, the bill has been assigned to committees and subcommittees for discussion in the House and Senate. However, Johnson has called on residents of Tennesseans to join the cause and sign onto the bill as a citizen endorser.


The debate around the bill is multifaceted, BNN Breaking noted. Supporters of the bill argue that such a significant jump could help reduce levels of poverty, decrease employee turnover, and stimulate local economies.

However, the critics of the bill have raised concerns over companies not complying with the change and the potential job losses. Further, the increased operational costs will impact small businesses, and have broader economic repercussions as well.

Further, the viability of a one-size-fits-all solution has been questioned for the state which is known for its diverse economic landscape, ranging between cities like Nashville to rural areas with different financial dynamics.

The legislative process for the bill will be a marathon rather than a sprint. So far, the bill has successfully navigated through the initial hurdles as it passed through the first and second considerations in the Senate. The bill now faces its critical examination by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.

Representative Johnson, who is running for US Senate, has stated that she will be pushing for a $20 minimum wage on the national level if she is elected.


However, Johnson has also mentioned that the bill will not likely pass due to opposition from the Republican supermajority, according to the WSMV report. Johnson has argued that a significant minimum wage change is needed because in the state the current minimum wage is not a liveable wage for the people.

Furthermore, a statement from the campaign manager for republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn called Johnson a woke representative who is trying to “out-liberal” Joe Biden’s minimum wage executive order.