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Five Million Workers Get Raises As 19 States Across The United States - Including New York - Increase The Minimum Wage

Published Tuesday, January 1, 2019
by Steve Wishnia/
Five Million Workers Get Raises As 19 States Across The United States - Including New York - Increase The Minimum Wage

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - More than 5 million U.S. Workers got a raise today (January 1st), as minimum-wage increases went into effect in 19 States and at least 21 cities and counties.

The increases range from a 5¢-an-hour cost-of-living adjustment in Alaska to a $2 hike, to $15 an hour, for Non-Tipped Workers at places with at least 11 Employees in New York City.

The minimum will reach or surpass $15 in a dozen-odd cities and towns, with a high of $16.09 in Sea-Tac, Washington - the small airport-dominated city that in 2014 became the first place in the Nation to enact a $15 minimum.

The National Fight For $15 Campaign has reached that goal most successfully in the San Francisco Bay Area, where San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, and Richmond all now require $15, and the Silicon Valley Cities of Sunnyvale and Mountain View went up to $15.65 on January 1st.  New York City’s limited $15 minimum also covers Fast Food Workers and Seattle’s is going up to $16 at “large employers,” those with at least 500 Workers worldwide.

The Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25, however, has not been raised since 2009, and it is used by 21 States, including Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimated in 2017 that it had lost one-eighth of its purchasing power since 2009.

To have the same purchasing power as it did 50 years ago, the EPI said, the minimum would have to be $9.90.

If it had risen as much as the average Non-Supervisory Workers’ pay, it would be $11.62 - and if it had grown as fast as Workers’ productivity since 1968, it would be $19.33. 

In the South, 11 of the 13 States from Virginia to Texas use the Federal $7.25.

The exceptions are Arkansas, where thanks to the Ballot Issue 5 initiative approved by more than two-thirds of the State’s voters last November, an estimated 81,000 Workers will get a raise from $8.50 an hour to $9.25 - and in Florida, where a 21¢ inflation adjustment will bring the minimum up to $8.46, affecting 159,000 Workers.

Legislators last year blocked or reduced Minimum Wage increases in at least two States and the District of Columbia.

In Michigan, after supporters of an initiative to raise the minimum from $9.25 to $12 by 2022 won a court battle in August to get it on the ballot, the Republican-dominated State Legislature pre-empted the vote by passing the measure as State Law - and then, in its lame-duck session, delayed the increase to $12 until 2030, and repealed the provisions that would have eliminated the lower minimum of $3.52 for Tipped Workers by 2024.

Outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed that bill on December 14th.

The Washington City Council also overrode an initiative to eliminate the lower minimum for Tipped Workers.  In June, city residents approved raising it from $3.89 to the regular city minimum of $13.25, but the City Council, lobbied heavily by the restaurant industry, repealed it just before it would have gone into effect in October. 

The National Tipped Minimum Wage has been $2.13 since 1991.

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