Push is On in More Cities to Raise Local Minimum Wages

by Mitchell Hirsch

On the heels of significant local ballot victories which raised the minimum wage in San Francisco and Oakland, California, more cities across the U.S. are taking up measures to boost local minimum wages.

The City Council in Portland, Maine, is considering a measure that would increase the local minimum wage in two stages from its current statewide minimum of $7.50 per hour to $10.10 in 2016 and $10.68 in 2017.  In its current form, the proposal would also index the minimum wage to the urban Consumer Price Index after 2017, and it would assure a minimum wage for tipped workers of $9.50 per hour.  Earlier this year, Maine Governor Paul LePagevetoed a statewide increase to $9 per hour by 2015 which had been passed by the legislature.

In Louisville, Kentucky, a Metro Council committee will vote December 4 on a measure to raise the local minimum wage from the current state and federal level of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 in three steps.  The proposal would raise the local minimum to $8.10 on July 1, 2015, to $9.15 in 2016 and then to $10.10 in 2017.  But the base minimum for tipped workers would only be 45 percent of the full minimum wage.  If approved by the committee, the full Council would vote on it December 11.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico, City Council is set to vote December 1 on a plan to raise the local minimum wagefrom its current $7.50 statewide level to $8.40 in 2015 and to $10.10 in 2017.  If approved, that measure would replace a more modest increase passed earlier this year, to $8 per hour in July 2015 and $8.50 in 2016, with the new $10.10 plan agreed to by the Council in September.

Each of these cities is taking up local minimum wage increases in response to conservatives in their state governments blocking action to increase statewide minimum wages.

In related news last week, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage for all City of Seattle employees to $15 per hour beginning April 1, 2015.  That plan gives city workers a much faster route to the$15 minimum enacted earlier this year covering private employers, which phases in over a total of seven years.