More Good News On The Minimum Wage
It has been a few months since we praised the momentum throughout the country for increasing the minimum wage. There’s been even more good news recently, as states continue to take action without waiting for Congress. Just since late March, four states have passed bills increasing the minimum wage:
March 27: Connecticut Becomes The First State In The Nation To Raise Its Minimum Wage To $10.10. As Democrats in Congress and President Obama push for national legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, Connecticut became the first state to do so on it’s own. The law is expected to raise pay for 227,000 workers in the state, or about 15 percent of its workforce.
April 2: West Virginia Raises Its Minimum Wage, Proving Bipartisan Grassroots Support. West Virginia didn’t vote for Barack Obama for President. But the state agrees with him on the need to raise the minimum wage. Lawmakers voted to raise its wage from the federal level of $7.25 to $8.75 by 2016, which will lift wages for 22,000 minimum wage workers and tens of thousands more who earn above $7.25 per hour but below $8.
April 7: Maryland Joins Connecticut In Raising Its Minimum Wage To $10.10. Maryland’s minimum wage law phases in over the next four years, a little more slowly than Connecticut’s, but still to the $10.10 threshold being pushed at the federal level. The bill was a top priority for Gov. Martin O’Malley.
April 10: Minnesota Lawmakers OK Raising State’s Minimum Wage To $9.50. Minnesota’s current minimum wage is just $6.15 per hour, one of the lowest in the nation and more than a dollar below the federal minimum. The increase is expected to help boost the wages of about 350,000 workers in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
In states that haven’t passed legislation to raise the wage, lawmakers have been taking action and drawing attention to the issue in other ways. State legislators in Colorado, Florida, and Michigan took part last week in the “minimum wage challenge,” organized by the Progressive States Network as part of their National Week of Action for Real Prosperity Across America. The challenge is to spend just $42 for a week’s worth of food (a figure based on Department of Agriculture estimates for a nutritious diet on the most bare bones budget).
One participant, Michigan state representative Rashida Tlaib, recounts part of her experience: “I got to the counter and I thought I did well by calculating it. But I actually had to put three items away.” The minimum wage used to go further, she reflected. Now “a gallon of milk is six dollars. It’s an hour’s work for a gallon of milk.”
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a no brainer for Congress to take an important step in creating an economy that works for everyone by raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. But even without Congressional action, hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers around the country are getting raises. Five states so far this year have passed minimum wage laws, including four in just the last three weeks.
BONUS: While Congress is on recess for the next two weeks, make your own voice heard on this important issue! Check out an updating list of congressional town halls and events by going to www.accountablecongress.com.