Race to the Top: States Continue to Set New Standards with Minimum Wage Increases
Don’t Google “state pride tattoos.” There are just too many results; it’s overwhelming. But as my “research” proved, competition among states can manifest itself in some really silly ways. Every once in a while, though, that my-state-is-better-than-yours attitude is well earned.
Take, for example, the number of states vying to establish the country’s highest statewide minimum wage. More than once this year, we’ve read headlines that one state or another has climbed to the top – and it just keeps happening. In March, Connecticut was self-high-fiving during its reign. Earlier this month, Vermont snatched the title. And as of this week, Massachusetts is moving into first place.
The Bay State’s bill, which will raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2017, received final lawmaker approval yesterday, and Governor Deval Patrick is expected to sign the legislation soon. Tipped workers will also see an increase in their minimum cash wage, which will rise from $2.63 to $3.75.
With Massachusetts’ news, 9 states (and the District of Columbia!) will have passed legislation this year to raise the wage: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Vermont. Check out our map for more details on the scheduled increases.
On the federal level, efforts continue in support of the Fair Minimum Wage Act (H.R. 1010/S. 460). When fully implemented, the act would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, increase the tipped minimum cash wage to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage, and index both wages to keep up with inflation. While raising the federal minimum wage is crucial, momentum at the state level means that some workers will see raises very soon. And there’s still hope that other state legislatures will move forward this year. Plus, cities like Seattle and Las Cruces (NM) aren’t waiting for state action; they’re taking matters into their own hands and passing citywide increases.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: The hardworking, overwhelmingly female workforce that makes the minimum wage deserves a raise. If encouraging a little state-versus-state competition means that they’re paid a fairer wage, I’m all for it. But at the rate we’re seeing increases around the country, I’d recommend sticking with temporary tattoos.
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