NELP report: New year to usher in minimum wage increases; fight for $15 pays dividends


December 24, 2019

As we prepare to ring in the new year, there is some good news to report. Across the country, a record number of states, cities and counties are raising the minimum wage, evidence that our national conversation and debate over income inequality is having tangible results.

The welcome news was delivered in a new report published Monday by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a CHN member. NELP reported that in January alone, 21 states and 26 cities and counties will raise the minimum wage (in New York, a minimum wage increase actually takes effect on Dec. 31).

In 17 of these jurisdictions, the minimum wage will reach or surpass $15 per hour. And there’s more good news to come: later in 2020, four more states and 23 additional localities also will raise their minimum wages – 15 of them to $15 or more.

NELP reports that this is the greatest number of states and localities ever to raise their minimum wages at one time – both in January and for the year as a whole. “More and more jurisdictions have been raising their minimum wages since the Fight for $15 movement began in November 2012,” NELP notes. “In total, 24 states and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages sometime in 2020….These increases will put much-needed money in the hands of the lowest-paid workers, many of whom struggle with high and ever-increasing costs of living.”

Other findings from NELP:

The minimum wage will increase in 21 states and 26 cities and counties on or around New Year’s Day, for a total of 47 jurisdictions. In 17 cities and counties, the minimum wage will reach or exceed $15 per hour – including Petaluma, CA, and Seattle, WA, which will have lower minimum wages for small employers, and New York City, which will require a $15 minimum wage for employers of any size and in any industry, as part of statewide minimum wage increases.

Later in 2020, four states and 23 cities and counties will follow with additional minimum wage increases, for a total of 27 jurisdictions. In 15 cities and counties, the minimum wage will reach or exceed $15 per hour – including Berkeley, Emeryville, Milpitas, and San Francisco, CA, which already have reached or surpassed a $15 minimum wage and are expected to raise wages further; and Fremont, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, Malibu, Novato, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Santa Rosa, CA, which will have lower minimum wages for small employers.

The news is not all rosy. The federal minimum wage remains stuck at an unconscionable $7.25 an hour; it has not been raised since 2009. That means low-income people in unsympathetic states (think Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, among others) continue to get left behind. Back in July, the U.S. House approved the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582), which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 and index it to inflation after that. There is no indication whatsoever that the Senate, in its current composition, will take up the measure.