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AFL-CIO Now

Boosting the Minimum Wage in the States Is a No-Brainer

Illustration by Interfaith Workers Justice

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour and an increase facing stiff opposition from congressional Republicans, coalitions of union, community, faith and other groups are mobilizing to win increases in state and local minimum wage levels. Here’s a look at some recent wins and campaigns where AFL-CIO state federations and central labor councils are playing big roles.

In late March, the New York state legislature approved a measure increasing the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour over three years. New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento says:

Raising the minimum wage will make a real difference in the lives of workers, many of whom are adults working full-time, and many of whom have families to support.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, raising New York's minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will benefit more than 1.5 million New York workers—more than one in five workers in New York. The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates that increasing New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour will generate more than $1.1 billion in new economic activity, supporting the creation of 10,200 new full-time jobs as businesses expand to meet increased consumer demand.   

San Jose, Calif., recently increased its minimum wage to $10 an hour after a campaign by the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council in winning a ballot measure to boost the city’s minimum wage.

Meanwhile in Hawaii, the state House passed legislation to raise the Aloha State’s minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2017 in four steps. The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill next month.

In Maine last week, the state House also voted to boost the state’s minimum wage, from the current $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016 in in three steps. The bill also protects the wage from losing its value inflation by indexing it to inflation. The bill awaits state Senate action.

A bill to increase the Minnesota minimum wage to $10.55 an hour over three years is making it way through the House. It already has been approved by three committees and further action is expected later in the spring. It also is indexed against inflation. The bill is a key part of the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s Agenda for Dignity and Middle Class Fairness.

Looking down the road, New Jersey voters will decide this fall on a ballot measure to raise the Garden State’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour and index it against inflation. The New Jersey State AFL-CIO plans a major effort around the measure. In January, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a minimum wage bill.

There are also campaigns or legislation under way to increase the minimum wage in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico and Rhode Island.

On the federal level, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) earlier this year introduced legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour; and a new report reveals the American Legislative Exchange Council is engaged in a widespread campaign to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws and other low-wage worker protections.

You can find out more about the minimum wage from the National Employment Law Project and from the group’s Raise the Minimum Wage website.

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