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Fight for $15’s Four-Year Impact: $62 Billion in Raises for America’s Workers

More than 12 times amount of last federal minimum wage increase in 2007

NEW YORK—As the Fight for $15 marks its fourth anniversary Tuesday with a wave of strikes, protests and civil disobedience from coast to coast, a new report from the National Employment Law Project shows that America’s workers have won nearly $62 billion in raises since the movement kicked off in New York City in 2012.

The raises won by the movement that started when 200 McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King workers walked off their jobs four years ago demanding $15 and union rights are more than 12 times the $5 billion raise workers got in all 50 states after the last federal minimum wage increase, approved by Congress in 2007.

“The Fight for $15’s impact towers over past congressional action because it has been propelled by what workers need—not what moderate compromise might allow,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “As a result, workers have been fighting for and winning much bigger raises for much more of the workforce than ever before.”

The NELP analysis quantifies for the first time the impact of the Fight for $15 on workers across the country. Here are the key findings:

  • Since the Fight for $15 launched in 2012, underpaid workers have won $61.5 billion in raises from a combination of state and local minimum wage increases from New York to California and action by employers ranging from McDonald’s to Walmart to raise their companies’ minimum pay scales. (Figure represents the total additional annual income that workers will receive after the approved increases fully phase in.)
  • Of the $61.5 billion in additional income, two-thirds is the result of landmark $15 minimum wage laws that the Fight for $15 won in California, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, SeaTac and Washington, D.C.
  • At least 19 million workers nationwide will benefit from raises sparked by the Fight for $15.
  • 2.1 million of those workers won raises this month when voters approved minimum wage ballot initiatives in Arizona ($12 by 2020), Colorado ($12 by 2020), Maine ($12 by 2020), Washington State ($13.50 by 2020), and Flagstaff, AZ ($15 by 2021).

The raises sparked by the Fight for $15 are slowly beginning to reverse decades of wage declines that have resulted in 43 percent of the workforce, or 60 million workers, being paid less than $15 an hour. Across the United States, the median wage rose 5.6 percent last year, the largest increase since at least the 1960s.

“The Fight for $15 movement has recast the national conversation on wages, setting $15 as the new benchmark for a strong minimum wage around the country,” Owens said. “By speaking out and sticking together, the courageous workers at the heart of the Fight for $15 movement have delivered meaningful, life-changing wage increases for 19 million low-wage workers and their families around the country.”

Download the full NELP report here.

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