Millions of working class Americans to get more money as 50 states and cities raise minimum wage

By end of 2020 72 states, cities and counties will have implemented a rise

Andrew Buncombe
Wednesday 01 January 2020 21:11
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Millions of working class Americans are to receive more money after a record number of states and cities increased their minimum wages.

Rises to the minimum wage went into effect on January 1 in 20 states and 26 cities and counties, most of them in California.

By the end of 2020, a total of 72 jurisdictions will have overseen an increase, with the measure taking affect in New York on the last day of last year – December 31 2019.

“The the minimum wage will increase in 21 states and 26 cities and counties. In 17 of those jurisdictions, the minimum wage will reach or surpass $15 per hour,” wrote Yannet Lathrop, a researcher with the National Employment Law Project, a Washington DC-based group that promotes better conditions for workers.

“Later in 2020, four more states and 23 additional localities will also raise their minimum wages—15 of them to $15 or more. This is the greatest number of states and localities ever to raise their wage floors.”

She added: “These increases will put much-needed money into the hands of the lowest-paid workers, many of whom struggle with high and ever-increasing costs of living.”

The campaign to raise the minimum wage across the US has been a long and difficult fight. The federal minimum wage was pinned at just $7.25 per hour in 2009, and the so-called “Fight for 15” campaign has pushed to have that hourly minimum more than doubled.

That effort received a boost when Bernie Sanders introduced legislation to raise the federal minimum to $15 per hour as far back as 2015. While the measure did not pass Congress, he made it an issue as he campaigned in the 2016 presidential race.

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On Monday, Mr Sanders tweeted his compliments to those who had worked for the wage hike. “Congratulations to the 47 states and localities that are raising the minimum wage today—the largest number of jurisdictions in history,” he wrote.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, all the leading Democratic Party candidates support a $15 minimum floor, including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Amy Klobuchar.

“I stand strongly with you in your fight for $15,” Ms Klobuchar said last summer during the National Forum on Wages and Working People in Las Vegas, which was organised by a major workers’ union.

“We must get a $15 federal minimum wage.”

The increases that came into effect on January 1 2020, varied from jurisdictions to jurisdiction, and not in every case was it raised to $15.

CNN pointed out some believe raising the minimum wage could result in the loss of some jobs.

A study published in July by the Congressional Budget Office projected that a wage increase to $15 an hour would result in a loss of 1.3 workers, or 0.8 per cent of the workforce. Some have instead suggested a $12 per hour minimum.

But Ms Lathrop suggested there was just as much support for raising the figure to $15.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of states, cities, and counties raise the minimum wage,” she said.

“Local communities all around the country strongly support raising the minimum wage, because people see their friends, neighbours, or themselves working hard but not getting ahead. People who work low-wage jobs need and deserve a raise—and companies can afford it. There’s no excuse.”

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