Millions of workers around the United States have something to look forward to come New Year’s Day. Low wage workers will see their earnings rise as 10 states are set to increase the minimum wage. These increases come from the states’ cost of living adjustments which help account for inflation. The federal minimum wage is currently at $7.25; it was last raised in 2009 and isn’t set to adjust for inflation.
The states that will be raising the minimum wage are: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The rise in wages will be approximately 10 to 35 cents depending on the state. Washington has the highest minimum wage at $9.19, after a 15 cent increase set to take place in January. These increases will help low wage workers earn an extra 200-500 dollars a year. Even after the increase, however, the disparity between the cost of living and the minimum wage will still make it extremely difficult to survive in major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Atlanta. It is highly encouraging to see these increases in wages during such difficult times, but proponents of fair wages still are concerned at the inactivity of the issue on the federal level.
The Economic Policy Institute observed that if minimum wage were to be adjusted for inflation since the 1960s it would be a little over 10 dollars. Moreover, if minimum wage kept pace with overall economic growth in America, especially corporate profits and CEO’s, the minimum wage would be around 21 dollars! This is a staggering difference to the federal standard which seems to inch up seldomly.
Senate Democrats and House Democrats have introduced legislation, The Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would have raised the minimum wage to $9.80 after 3 years and indexed it to inflation. However, these measures have failed in both respective chambers. The legislation will be reintroduced in Congress once the new session starts and is expected to meet heavy resistance from corporate interest and Republicans.