Four states passed ballot initiatives in Tuesday’s election raising the minimum wage. Arizona, Colorado and Maine plan wage hikes to $12 per hour by 2020 while Washington state will increase the minimum to $13.50, also by 2020. Along with raising the minimum wage, the measures in Arizona and Colorado will require businesses to provide employees with paid sick leave.
“Four very different states passed ballot initiatives today to raise the minimum wage,” said Holly Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, in a prepared statement. “That speaks volumes. Voters know the minimum wage is too low and needs a boost. Workers are also customers, and increased pay means increased consumer buying power — as well as lower employee turnover and improved productivity.”
This is not the first time states have voted to raise the minimum wage. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank, 14 states raised their minimum wage at the beginning of 2016. These included Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, New York, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
New York became the second state to pass a law that would raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15 per hour by the end of 2018. Washington D.C. enacted a law to raise its wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2020, and California will follow suit by January 1, 2022.
Spurred on by these victories, groups like Sklar’s are once again calling on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage of $7.25. She stated that the federal minimum wage has “lagged far behind” the cost of living since its high point in 1968 when it was worth $11.10 in today’s dollars.
“It’s time to finally consign the $7.25 federal minimum wage to the past and ensure an adequate wage floor everywhere people live and do business,” Sklar said.
In 2014, a Senate bill to raise the federal amount to $10.10 failed to pass. Business leaders heralded the decision, saying that a rate hike would mean the difference between survival and failure for some.