It's a fitting question to ask this week, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the landmark law that established the first federal minimum wage. And it's a particularly important question for women, who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.
The answer, though, depends a lot on where you live. A majority of states follow the federal minimum wage, which is not scheduled to rise even though it has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for almost four years — and for tipped workers in states that follow the federal standard, the minimum cash wage has been frozen at a shockingly low $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years. But in states like Washington, Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont, the minimum wage will automatically rise in January 2014 to keep up with inflation, and minimum wage increases recently enacted in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island will also begin to take effect in 2014.
To make it easy for you to find out what’s happening with the minimum wage in your state, the National Women's Law Center just released this handy interactive map.
You can click on any state to see its minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, along with the share of minimum wage workers who are women, the next scheduled increase in the minimum wage, and any recent action on the minimum wage in the state legislature.
The map shows some positive trends: with the increases enacted this year, 20 states and D.C. will have minimum wages above the federal level. Minimum wage bills are also pending in California and Massachusetts, and a measure on New Jersey's ballot in November will allow voters to decide whether the state minimum wage will rise.
Even with recent improvements, however, the minimum wage in every state leaves a full-time worker with two children at or below the poverty line. A nationwide increase is necessary to help millions of workers across the country support themselves and their families. That's why Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, increase the tipped minimum cash wage from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and index these wages to keep pace with inflation.
By boosting wages for more than 30 million workers, the Fair Minimum Wage Act would lift millions out of poverty — and because women are the majority of workers who would get a raise, the bill could also help close the wage gap. It's past time for Congress to act to ensure that the minimum wage will soon go up, no matter where you live.
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