CREDIT: Delaware Dept. of Transportation
Delaware’s minimum wage will rise by 50 cents on June 1 and by another 50 cents a year later under the law Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed into law last Thursday. It is the first state to put a wage hike into law this year.
The law will directly benefit 40,000 workers in Delaware who make between the current minimum of $7.25 an hour to the $8.25 hourly minimum that will apply come next summer. Because higher wages for 40,000 working people mean bigger budgets, the law will also indirectly benefit Delaware businesses and the unemployed who they will hire. “My kids don’t have shoes that they need, or clothes to wear every day,” 36-year-old fast food worker Chandra Crippen told The News Journal, adding that while a pay raise doesn’t put an end to her family’s struggles, it does mean “things could be possible” that aren’t now.
This is the first wage hike by Delaware state legislators since 2006, when the minimum wage rose from $6.15 to $7.15. The law’s quick passage confirms reports in December that the bill was “headed on a fast track for approval” as opponents became supporters or at least agreed to get out of the way.
That sort of shift by elected officials reflects workers’ successes at organizing around a minimum wage hike all across the country throughout 2013. Fast food workers like Crippen went on strike repeatedly in scores of cities in all parts of the U.S., Walmart workers walked off the job and held rallies throughout the year, and federally contracted service employees walked off the job on five separate days spanning from last spring to late January. Four states passed minimum wage hikes in 2014 and a total of roughly 1.5 million workers got raises on January 1 from those new laws and from other, older ones that automatically raise state minimum wages to keep up with inflation.
The year ahead holds even more promise for workers. There are 24 states other than Delaware where lawmakers are working to raise the minimum wage and there are campaigns to get a wage hike on the November ballot in seven. Those campaigns are pegged to a wide variety of different wage goals, but federal efforts are coalescing around a minimum wage of $10.10. That would be high enough to replace the buying power minimum wage workers have lost since 1968 and to raise about 5 million out of poverty, but less than half of what the minimum wage would be had it kept pace with worker productivity or with the income growth of the top 1 percent of Americans. President Obama, progressive lawmakers, and voters all support a $10.10 federal minimum, but even if Congressional conservatives continue to stall, the cause has traction at the state level.