Minimum Wage Increases in California + New York = 8 Million Winners in the Fight for $15
Yesterday afternoon, California’s legislature passed the first statewide $15 minimum wage in the country, which Governor Brown is expected to sign on Monday. Not to be outdone, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders announced late yesterday that they had reached agreement on a budget plan that includes a statewide $15 minimum wage. These are huge victories for workers who have been fighting for higher wages—especially for women, who are the majority of minimum wage workers in both states.
Nearly 1 in 3 workers in California (5.6 million)will get a raise under their state’s new law, which gradually increases the minimum wage from its current $10 to $15 per hour by 2022 (2023 for businesses with 25 or fewer employees), and increases it automatically based on inflation starting in 2024. In New York, over 2.3 million workers will also see bigger paychecks as the minimum wage rises from $9 to $15—by December 2018 in New York City (one year later for businesses with 10 or fewer employees), and by December 2021 in suburban Long Island and Westchester County. In upstate New York, the wage will rise to $12.50 per hour by December 2020, then be increased annually until it reaches $15 per hour based on a formula to be set by the state budget agency.
In two of the largest states in the country, millions of the hardest-working, lowest-paid workers—like home health aides, child care workers, retail staff, and food service workers—will now see their annual incomes rise to about $30,000 in the coming years if they work full time. For a mom with two kids who currently makes minimum wage, that can mean the difference between hovering around the poverty line and having a real shot at economic security. In California, restaurant servers and other tipped workers will fully benefit from the increase, too: California is one of eight states in which employers must pay their tipped employees the regular minimum wage before tips. Unfortunately, the same is probably not true in New York; the deal announced last night looks unlikely to raise the state’s $7.50 minimum cash wage for tipped workers.
A $15 minimum wage in California and New York represents tremendous progress, but also puts in stark relief the urgent need for federal action to make sure many more millions of workers across the country aren’t left behind. Today, the federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour—and the minimum cash wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour! (No, that’s not an April Fools’ joke. As of today, the tipped minimum wage hasn’t gone up for an astonishing 25 years.) It’s past time for Congress to enact one fair minimum wage nationwide.