by Katrina Hapner, contributing writer for Telegraph Local
Millions of Americans will be starting the new year with a pay raise. According to the National Employment Law Project, there will be 21 states and 26 cities, counties affected by this phasing in of minimum wage increases. This is being done to adjust their wage floors to keep up with rising costs of living. In 17 of those areas, the minimum wage will reach at least $15 an hour. More areas are raising their minimum wage at the new year than ever before.
The National Employment Law Project gives a lot of credit for these increases to the Fight for $15 movement that first came out in New York City in 2012, trying to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers. Workers in the wage hike areas will see their yearly earnings increase by $150 to $1700. These wage hikes range from just a 10 cent inflation hike in Florida, all the way to $1.50 an hour raise in Washington and New Mexico. Yannet Lathrop, an analyst with the National Employment Law Project stated that “It shows the incredible momentum that the Fight for $15 movement has built up. Local communities all around the country strongly support raising the minimum wage, because people see their friends, neighbors or themselves working hard but not getting ahead.”
There will also be four other states and 23 cities who have wage increases that will happen later in the year. Fifteen of those will see wages increasing up to $15 or more per hour. All of these changes are at the local level with the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 approximately 10 years ago by congress. However, this year the Democrat-controlled House passed the Raise the Wage Act, with the intention of raising the federal minimum wage gradually to $15 by the year 2025.
At the moment there are still 21 states with a minimum wage set at $7.25. However, that level of compensation is not allowing workers to have an adequate wage to keep up with today’s cost of living. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.1% of all hourly workers did make the federal minimum wage last year, including many teenage workers, but there were still a very significant amount of adult workers who do not make a wage capable of sustaining a family of four to even the poverty threshold.
The National Employment Law Project also predicts that by 2024, single adult workers will need to make at least $15 an hour to earn a minimum standard of living. Research does show that wage growth for low wage workers has happened much faster in states that decided to raise their minimum wage. As wages continue to remain unchanged, workers must then rely on public assistance programs. It is a no-win situation for everyone.