Record Number of Jurisdictions Will Raise Wages in 2020;
But Some Local Wage Efforts Stymied by State Preemption Laws
Washington, DC—The New Year will bring good news and some relief for millions of U.S. families struggling to survive on low-paying jobs. Come January 1st, 21 states and 26 cities and counties—more jurisdictions than ever before—will phase in minimum wage increases or adjust their wage floors to keep up with the rising cost of living. In 17 of those localities, the minimum wage will reach or exceed $15 an hour on January 1st, according to a report released today by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), which tracks and advocates for minimum wage increases around the country.
“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of states, cities, and counties raise the minimum wage,” said Yannet Lathrop, researcher and policy analyst with NELP and the report’s author. “It shows the incredible momentum that the Fight for $15 movement has built up. Local communities all around the country strongly support raising the minimum wage, because people see their friends, neighbors, or themselves working hard but not getting ahead. People who work low-wage jobs need and deserve a raise—and companies can afford it. There’s no excuse.”
The New Year’s increases will be followed later in 2020 by another round of raises in four states and 23 cities and counties, with 15 localities going up to $15 or more. In total, 24 states and 48 cities and counties—a record-high 72 jurisdictions—will raise their minimum wages sometime in 2020.
Although cities and counties play an increasingly crucial role in setting wage policies, some local efforts to raise wages have been stymied by state laws preempting, or invalidating, local minimum wage laws. Twelve municipalities in six states—Birmingham, Alabama; Miami Beach, Florida; Johnson, Lee, Linn, Polk, and Wapello Counties, Iowa; Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; and Madison, Wisconsin—moved to adopt higher wages in recent years, only to be blocked from doing so by their state legislatures. As a result, workers in these 12 municipalities are losing roughly $1.5 billion in wages annually.
“Let’s be clear: Wage preemption is a racial and gender justice issue,” said Rebecca Dixon, NELP’s incoming executive director. “Most of the workers affected by these state laws blocking local wage increases are women. And workers of color make up the overwhelming majority of affected workers in Birmingham, St. Louis, and Miami Beach, while constituting a sizable share of the affected workers in many of the other cities. These preemption laws are depriving workers of badly needed wages they have already fought for and won. We know workers and advocates will not accept these unjust laws that take away local control and nullify local democracy.”
Change is on the horizon and workers are fighting back. Colorado became the first state in the nation to repeal wage preemption in May 2019, which led to the City of Denver raising its own wage floor in November. Twelve other states have recent or ongoing minimum wage preemption repeal efforts underway, according to the NELP report.
READ THE REPORT:
Raises from Coast to Coast in 2020