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Report: Fight for $15 Won $68 Billion in Raises for 22 Million Workers

Wage gains 14 times greater than gains from last federal minimum wage increase

NEW YORK —As the Fight for $15 marks its sixth anniversary today, a report from the National Employment Law Project finds that 22 million workers have won $68 billion in raises since the worker-led movement launched on November 29, 2012.

That was when 200 fast-food workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King sites across New York City walked off their jobs, demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union. Since then, dozens of states and localities have raised their minimum wage rates, and many employers, both large and small, have voluntarily increased their companies’ minimum pay scales, as documented in the NELP report.

“The Fight for $15 sparked the most visionary and inspiring U.S. worker movement in a generation—one that has yielded enormous victories,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Thanks to these brave workers, who risked retaliation to demand decent pay and a voice on the job, we’ve seen a huge shift in the national conversation about what it really takes for working people to make a living and support their families in America. And most importantly, they’ve delivered results.”

To put it in context, the $68 billion in raises (arising from changes in fewer than half the states and just over a dozen cities and counties) is 14 times greater than the wage gains resulting from the last federal minimum wage increase in 2007 (which applied nationwide). The overwhelming share (70 percent, or $47 billion) of that $68 billion is the result of $15 minimum wage laws enacted in the states of California, New York, and Massachusetts, and in the localities of Flagstaff, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Minneapolis, St. Paul, SeaTac, and Seattle. (Figures represent the total additional annual income that workers will receive after the approved increases fully phase in.)

The totals would have been higher, given that cities in Alabama, Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri had passed their own minimum wage increases. Those raises were blocked from taking effect by state legislatures, however, through corporate-backed “preemption” laws barring cities from raising their wage floors.

“Beyond all expectations, the Fight for $15 movement has succeeded in setting $15 as the new benchmark for a strong minimum wage around the country. Now, it’s time for Congress to pick up the baton and put all 50 states on the gradual path to a $15 minimum wage,” said Owens. “By joining together and speaking out, the courageous workers at the heart of the Fight for $15 movement have delivered meaningful, life-changing raises for 22 million workers and their families.”

Download the full NELP report here.

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