The White House and congressional leaders today agreed to raise the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour by April, 1991, ending a lengthy political stalemate and clearing the way for the first boost in the base wage since 1981.
Both sides made significant concessions to reach the deal, which for the first time would create a sub-minimum wage for teen-agers with little or no job experience.
The compromise was struck between White House chief of staff John H. Sununu and House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.). Other lawmakers who have in the past been involved in the issue agreed to it, although some complained of being kept out of the discussions.
One last language problem was being worked out, but all sides said the compromise measure would be drafted today and put to a House vote Wednesday. Senate approval likely would follow rapidly.
"No side will get the victory for this," said Rep. Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Hawkins, the House author of a $4.55 minimum-wage bill President Bush vetoed earlier this year, said he was not involved in the talks that led to the deal.
Rep. Austin J. Murphy (D-Pa.) author of the latest Democratic proposal, said he would reluctantly support the compromise.
"I think we could have done a little better if we'd held their feet to the fire," he said.
The deal was reached even as Bush told a morning news conference he would again veto the Democratic bill if it was not changed to meet his standards.
"I'll send it right back," he said.
But a short time later, the compromise was presented to the House Rules Committee as a bipartisan substitute for the Murphy bill set for debate in the House on Wednesday. The agreement ends a nearly nine-year fight by the Democratic congressional leadership and organized labor against the Reagan Administration and now the Bush Administration.
The movement came only a day after Democrats and Republicans alike complained that the Administration was showing no willingness to compromise and that another veto-override battle was likely.
The compromise would boost the minimum wage from $3.35 an hour to $3.80 an hour on April 1, 1990, with a second 45-cent increase coming a year later. That would bring the minimum wage to $4.25 in 1991, nine months earlier than Bush originally proposed and three months later than called for in the current Democratic bill.
The issue that has been the greatest obstacle to agreement was the language for a so-called training wage under which newly hired workers could be paid a sub-minimum.
Democratic leaders wanted such a provision to cover only new entrants in the job market and only then for 60 days; Bush had insisted on a six-month provision that would cover all workers each time they changed jobs. A compromise on the issue was reached.