Following the announcement by California lawmakers that they would raise that state’s minimum wage to $15, New York legislators passed their own $15 minimum wage bill. The New York legislation will create a tiered system that raises wages in New York City by 2018, reaching its suburbs by 2021, and upstate New York a few years later. Several California cities had already passed $15 minimum wage laws along with Seattle, SeaTac, and a Massachusetts law covering home care workers.
Currently 42% of U.S. workers earn less than $15 an hour, but the new wage increases mean 1 in 5 Americans will live under a $15 minimum wage.
According to the National Employment Law Project:
Close to one in three working New Yorkers – nearly three million in total – would receive raises of more than $4,000 per year. For a home health aide or a waitress who struggles to get by on $15,000 per year, that’s the difference between near poverty and a life with less stress and more dignity. Sixty-one percent of New York’s workers who earn less than $15 per hour – 1.9 million in total – are located in New York City and its suburbs.
Other states and cities are considering similar legislation. DC’s mayor recently announced her support for a $15 minimum wage. Lawmakers in Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have all pledged their support for the movement and are planning to introduce legislation soon.
It will still take several years for the full wage increase to take effect in each of these jurisdictions, but these represent huge victories for all working people. Fast food workers in New York went on strike three years ago, launching the nationwide Fight For 15 movement. Just over a year later they won their first victory in Seattle thanks to the hard work of activists and everyday working people.
Even as Alabama and other conservative states struggle with preemption laws that prevent local jurisdictions from increasing their own minimum wages or worker benefits, there is hope in the groundswell being created nationwide. It will soon be impossible to deny the benefits of a living wage for working people and the economy as a whole. As the movement continues, Alabama has a chance to stand out among southern states by taking on the political establishment that has thus far denied us our due wages and replacing them with representatives of the working class in 2018.