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States Take Minimum Wage into Own Hands

Did you know that as of January 1, 2015, there are now 29 states that have minimum wages higher than the federal government? According to a recent Bloomberg article, “In 2014, 13 states passed legislation or initiatives to raise the wage floor, not just in Democratic strongholds but in red states as well. Now the results of those campaigns are starting to come to fruition nationwide. About 3.6 million people will see their pay go up for the new year, according to an analysis of census data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which supports higher minimum pay.”

“EPI’s data show that more than 730,000 workers earn the minimum wage in the 13 states that passed new raises in 2014. About two-thirds of those workers will see their wages go up on January 1, and the rest will see their pay increase later in 2015. EPI estimates that in those 13 states, an additional 675,000 workers who earn just above the minimum will likely also see some bump in 2015, as employers adjust their pay scale. That’s more than 1.4 million workers with higher pay because of laws passed in 2014 alone.”

“Even more workers will see higher wages in January thanks to raises passed in previous years. Almost 1.5 million will see higher pay because their state’s minimum wage indexes to inflation, which helps wages keep up with the rising costs of living. Another roughly 700,000 workers from New York will see a pay increase because of changes passed in 2013 that will increase minimum pay 9 percent.”

“In some states, minimum- or near-minimum-wage earners are a relatively small portion of the workforce, less than 7 percent. But in others, particularly those that passed new laws in 2014, low-wage earners are a large block. More than 11 percent of Rhode Island’s workers will get a pay bump, as will 19 percent of Delaware’s and almost 13 percent of West Virginia’s.”

“EPI’s numbers tally only changes at the state level. In 2014, much of the wage organizing was centered on cities, with such places as Seattle, San Francisco, and most recently, Louisville, setting higher pay. Pay in Washington, D.C., goes up by a dollar on July 1, to $10.50, which EPI estimates will affect about 100,000 workers. Wages in Oakland and San Francisco go up to $12.25 in March. Large employers in Seattle will need to start paying $11 in April, and in Chicago, minimum pay will rise to $10 in July.”

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