Labor Rights

Raising the Minimum Wage Wins at the Ballot Box

On Tuesday, four states voted to raise their minimum wages in light of Congress’ refusal to touch the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Arizona, Colorado, and Maine opted for an increase to $12 an hour by 2020, while Washington voters approved a raise to $13.50 an hour by 2020, directly benefiting around 2.1 million people. After 2020, the minimum wage in all four states will adjust for the cost of living.

In South Dakota, voters defeated a measure that sought to lower the minimum wage for workers under 18.

According to Politico, state ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage have appeared 20 times in the last 20 years, and have only failed twice, both times in 1996 only three months after a federal minimum wage increase.

California and New York are the only two states who have set a path to a $15 minimum wage, in addition to Washington DC. 15 cities, including Seattle, have also opted to increase to $15 an hour, with another six introducing legislation to do so.

But the fight for 15 has also had some recent setbacks. In September, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage from $8.38 to $15 an hour by 2021. Researchers say New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the country to live in, with an average salary of $27,552 necessary to support a single adult, far more than the mere $17,430 a year currently being made by minimum wage workers. Democratic state leaders say they will push for a 2017 voter referendum on the issue.

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