Thanks to new legislation taking effect this year, an estimated 2.5 million minimum wage workers in at least 13 states will receive much-needed pay increases in 2014. As wealth inequality continues to grow, these latest pay increases are a step in the right direction.
In New York, the minimum wage increased to $8.00 an hour on New Year’s Eve and will increase another dollar by 2015. In Connecticut, the minimum wage rose to $8.70 an hour and will increase to $9.00 per hour next year. New Jersey has the highest increase, from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour.
Ten states will see increases due to indexing for inflation, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Several cities and counties have also adopted higher minimum wage requirements. The District of Columbia City Council recently voted unanimously to increase the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 per hour by 2016 and adjust it annually for inflation thereafter. In Maryland, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, which border the District, also passed minimum wage increases. The small town of SeaTac, Washington, recently voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for some workers.
Previously, only 19 states required wages above the federal level, currently set at $7.25 an hour. This year that number increases to 21 states. Five states have no minimum wage requirement at all beyond the federal level.
The recent increases to the minimum wage come after a year marked with worker-led campaigns that exposed the crisis of low wages at some of the nation’s most profitable employers. Fast food strikes and Black Friday Walmart protests renewed attention on the reality of low-wage employment in the country. Recent polls show as many as two-thirds of Americans support an increase to the federal minimum wage. Because the federal minimum wage is not indexed for inflation, its actual value decreases each year. However, with the least-productive Congress in recent history failing to act, it has fallen on workers and communities to push for change at the state and municipal level.