By New Year’s Day Minimum Wages Will Rise in 19 States and 22 Cities and Counties
by Mitchell Hirsch
A total of 25 jurisdictions, including 7 states and 18 cities and counties, enacted minimum wage increases in 2016 – the most since fast food workers launched the Fight for $15 four years ago. The increases enacted this year will raise pay for 11.8 million workers, according to an analysis released by the National Employment Law Project.
Together with other increases approved in recent years, on or by New Year’s Day a total of 19 states and 22 cities and counties will increase their minimum wages, with another 21 states and cities raising minimum wages later in 2017.
The unprecedented state and local momentum to raise minimum wages is set to continue beyond the New Year, as more campaigns are expected to gear up in at least 13 additional states, cities and counties in the next two years. If successful, those campaigns will result in higher pay for another 8 million workers.
The scale of the impact of minimum wage increases already won, both public and private, is remarkable: 19 million underpaid workers nationwide have won $61.5 billion in raises since the Fight for $15 began in 2012.
This year’s victories included:
- The historic, phased-in $15 minimum wages in both California and New York, which will deliver raises to 1-in-3 workers in those states.
- Statewide minimum wage increases enacted by voters approving ballot measures in Arizona, Colorado and Maine to $12 per hour, and to $13.50 in Washington. In each of those states, the minimum wage increases received more votes than any of the candidates for president.
- Voters in Flagstaff, Arizona, approved a local $15 minimum wage, bringing to 19 the number of states and localities that have enacted $15 minimum wages.
- Maine and Flagstaff, AZ, became the first jurisdictions in more than 30 years to eliminate the unfair subminimum wage for tipped workers — a sign of the growing momentum of the “One Fair Wage” movement.
In the next two years, $15 minimum wage campaigns are already expected to gear up in at least 8 states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and 4 localities (Baltimore, Minneapolis, Montgomery County, MD, and Santa Clara, CA). Organizers will continue to campaign for “One Fair Wage” to phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers in Washington, D.C.
The hard-won victories we’ve seen in recent years at the state and local level have yet to be matched at the national level. The abysmally low federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which is still the minimum wage in 21 states, hasn’t increased a penny since 2009. While workers and their advocates can point to significant successes in some states and cities across the country, and will continue to fight to win wage increases wherever and whenever opportunities arise, only a substantial increase in the federal minimum wage will ensure that regardless of where one lives in the United States of America, people who work for a living will make a living from work and won’t have to live in poverty.