Supporters of a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers rally in Albany, N. Y.
ALBANY, N. Y. – It will be a happy New Year indeed for millions of the lowest paid AMERICAN workers. Nineteen states, including New York and California, will ring in the year with an increase of the minimum wage.
Massachusetts and Washington state the highest new minimum wages in the country, at $11 per hour.
California will raise the wages to $10.50 for companies with 26 or more employees. New York state is taking a regional approach, with the wage rising to $11 in New York City, $10.50 for small businesses in the city, $10 in the downstate suburbs, and $ 9.70 elsewhere. Some specific businesses — fast-food restaurants and the smallest of New York City businesses — have a slightly different salary requirements.
“This $1.50 increase, I can’t even begin to understand or to tell you how important this will be,” said Alvin Major, a New York City fast-food employee. The 51-year-old father of four helped lead the fight for the increase in his state, one of the many successful efforts of fast-food workers and other low-wage workers in the country. “The price of food has gone up. Rent has gone up. Everything is gone. … This will make a difference for so many people.”
The voters in Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Washington approved increases in this year’s election. Seven other states, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota, the automatic increase of wages on the basis of indexing. The other states to see increases in Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, and Vermont.
Additional increases are planned for later in the year in Oregon, Washington, D. C., and Maryland.
In Arizona, the state of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry filed a lawsuit challenging the increase, which will increase the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10. On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme court refused to temporarily block the increase.
Workers and labor advocates argue that the increases will help low-wage workers who are now barely making ends meet and stimulate the economy by giving some consumers more money to spend. But many entrepreneurs against the higher wages, saying they would lead to higher prices and more automation.
Some restaurant owners may consider reducing the size of the portions and / or charging for side dishes that were once included in the price of a meal to absorb the increase, according to Melissa Fleischut, president of the New York State Restaurant Association.
“I am sure that the prices go up, where they can, but restaurants want to avoid sticker shock,” she said. “They’re going to have to be creative.”
The adjustments in New York, California and other states are part of a series of gradual increases to a value of $12 to $15 hourly wage.
The minimum wage is also going up this weekend in 22 cities and counties, including San Diego, San Jose and Seattle.
The high number of states and municipalities to raise wages this year reflects the successful work of fast-food workers and the unions, according to Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior staff attorney at the National employment law Project, as well as the federal failure to act on the wage. The national minimum was last raised, to $7.25 in 2009.
“These are not just teens trying to make some pocket money,” she said. “Increasingly it is for the adults who are using this money to support their families.”