Raise Up Roundup – March 11, 2015

by Mitchell Hirsch

Welcome to the first Raise Up Roundup, a new feature with timely news highlights on the fight to raise the minimum wage and workers’ pay from around the country.

We start on the west coast, where workers in the East Bay area last week celebrated the new $12.25 per hour minimum wage that went into effect in Oakland, California, March 2.  The increase, which was the result of a citywide ballot initiative that passed overwhelmingly in November of last year, will boost pay for more than 40,000 workers by an average of about $2,700 per year.

Up in Oregon, support is growing for a bill in the state legislature that would raise the statewide minimum wage from its current $9.25 per hour to $15 by 2018.  About 589,000 workers would likely see direct pay raises if the proposal is enacted, with another 114,000 earning more than $15 also seeing raises resulting indirectly from such an increase, according to a report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

The Washington State House last week approved a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2019, sending the measure to the Senate.  The vote was 51-46 along party lines in the House, where Democrats hold a slim majority.  The situation is reversed in the Senate, however, with Republicans controlling a narrow majority.  Washington currently has the highest minimum wage of any state at $9.47 per hour.

Over on the east coast, meanwhile, support is gaining momentum in the Connecticut legislature for a bill that would eliminate the current sub-minimum wage for tipped workers in the state, giving tipped workers such as restaurant servers and other tipped service workers the same base minimum wage as for other workers.  The statewide minimum wage is currently $9.15 per hour – set to rise to $10.10 in 2017 – but only $5.78 per hour for restaurant and hotel service employees, and $7.46 for bartenders.  Eight states already set the tipped minimum wage equal to the value of the full minimum wage, ensuring that tipped workers are paid the full minimum wage directly by their employer.  New York recently announced it is raising the tipped minimum wage statewide at the end of 2015 while it considers eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers entirely.

In Rhode Island, Governor Gina Raimondo this week called on the state legislature to raise the state’s minimum wage from $9 to $10.10 per hour in January of 2016.  The legislature is also considering a bill that would raise the tipped minimum wage for the first time in twenty years, and make it the same as the overall minimum wage by 2020.