Approaching 10th anniversary of Fight for $15, raises signal that worker organizing has been effective amid ‘Great Resignation,’ pandemic recovery
Washington, DC.—Workers’ wages will increase in 56 cities, counties, and states on January 1, 2022, according to the latest report out today from the National Employment Law Project (NELP). In 33 of these jurisdictions, the wage floor will reach or exceed $15 an hour for some or all employers. These record increases arrive as we approach in 2022 the 10-year anniversary of the first fast-food workers’ strike to demand $15 and a union. While the federal wage floor has remained stagnant at $7.25/hour since 2009, underpaid workers have organized to demand and win higher wages—including during the present “Great Resignation,” where workers are quitting low-quality jobs at unprecedented rates.
The New Year’s increases, in which 21 states and 35 cities and counties will raise their minimum wage, will be followed by another round of increases later in 2022, when four states and 22 cities and counties will raise their rates—17 of them to $15 or more for some or all employers. In total, 25 states and 56 municipalities—a record-high 81 jurisdictions—will raise their minimum wage over the course of 2022. Forty-four cities and counties will have surpassed a $15 minimum wage for some or all employers at some point in 2022.
November 2022 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Fight for $15 movement. This movement, led by fast-food workers of color, has had a far-reaching impact on wages, and informed policy debates on fair pay and workplace rights. In the nine years since fast-food workers first walked off the job in New York City to demand living wages, the Fight for $15 has led to $150 billion in higher pay for 26 million workers.
“Since the first Fight for $15 protest in 2012, the movement has grown tremendously, accelerated by the pandemic’s exposure of stark inequities and hazardous work conditions,” said Rebecca Dixon, executive director of NELP. “Underpaid workers, especially Black and brown workers, have been mobilizing to demand higher wages, safer workplace conditions, and dignified jobs—and they’re succeeding. Faced with a tight labor market, employers will have to act quickly in order to retain discontented workers.”
Workers’ demand for at least $15 per hour became even more urgent and widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced a reckoning in low-wage industries and throughout the economy. Workers, fed up with low pay, a lack of job security, and poor working conditions endemic to service and other frontline jobs, have been emboldened to demand change. Some workers—in particular, those in the restaurant industry—have expressed their discontent by quitting in large numbers, citing low pay as one of the top reasons for leaving. Others have gone on strike, engaged in slowdowns or sick-ins, or taken other action.
Although city and state wage increases signal a step in the right direction, NELP, which tracks and advocates for minimum wage increases around the country, notes that there is still much to be done. Twenty states have refused to raise their wage floors above the federal rate for over a decade. Roughly half of those states are located in the U.S. South, where a majority of Black workers live and experience higher levels of poverty and downward economic mobility. As the federal wage floor has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009 and the federal tipped wage has been frozen at $2.13 for 30 years, without state action, underpaid workers will have to continue to depend on Congress to see a raise in minimum hourly wages.
READ THE REPORT: Raises from Coast to Coast in 2022