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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. Read more »

Listen Up: States Continue to Pave the Way on Minimum Wage Hikes

 With public polling showing remarkably strong support for increasing the minimum wage, legislators around the country are pushing to raise the wage – and they’re making it happen. We’re only nine days into April, and already, this month is one for the history books. Here are some highlights of what’s happening in the states:

  • Just last week, West Virginia’s governor signed into law a bill that will boost wages for 120,000 West Virginians. The minimum wage is now set to rise from $7.25 to $8.75 by 2016. Women make up about two-thirds [PDF] of the state’s minimum wage workers.
  • On Monday, Maryland’s legislature sent a bill to the governor to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by 2018, making the Free State only the second state to set the $10.10 figure called for in the pending federal Fair Minimum Wage Act. (Connecticut beat Maryland to become the first state with a $10.10 minimum wage last month.) Gov. Martin O’Malley has announced he’ll sign the bill, and for the state’s minimum wage workers – more than six in ten of whom are women – an increase can’t come soon enough. 

Connecticut Poised to Make History with $10.10 Minimum Wage

Why wait?

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy made it clear last month that he thought it was time to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 – and he wasn’t interested in waiting for Congress to do it. Malloy pushed for Connecticut state legislators to pass a statewide increase, and now they’re poised to make history. The Senate and the House voted yesterday to approve a bill (SB-32) to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017, and Malloy has announced he’ll sign the bill today.

It’s a very good day to be a Nutmeg-er. (Connectican? Connecticut-er?) Read more »

When Will the Minimum Wage Go Up?

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 YorkConnecticut, 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

Find out how the low minimum wage affects women in your state

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.  Read more »

Minimum Wage Increase Passed in Connecticut, but Not for Tipped Workers; California, Massachusetts Considering Stronger Measures

It’s the first week in June: temperatures are rising, the cicadas are swarming, and many state legislatures are wrapping up their 2013 sessions. This flurry of legislative activity has included several important steps forward on the minimum wage.

The biggest news comes from Connecticut, where last week the legislature passed – and the governor signed – a bill to increase the state minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 per hour by January 1, 2015. This compromise measure will give a much-needed raise to minimum wage workers in Connecticut, about six in ten of whom are women. An additional 75 cents per hour amounts to $1,500 a year for full-time work, bringing annual wages up from $16,500 to $18,000. That’s a meaningful boost, but still about $500 short of lifting a family of three above the poverty line, much less what is needed in a high-cost state like Connecticut.

And there is a catch: Connecticut’s new law actually reduces the percentage of the minimum wage that employers must pay to workers who receive tips. Today, tipped workers like restaurant servers are entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 69 percent of Connecticut’s full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour). In 2015, when the regular minimum wage is $9.00 instead of $8.25 per hour, tipped workers will be entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 63.2 percent of the full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour) – that is, they will get no raise at all. While most of Connecticut’s minimum wage workers who will get a raise are women, women are also a majority of the tipped workers who will suffer from this unfair exclusion. Read more »

New York Raises Its Minimum Wage (For a Price) and the Fight Continues in Other States

There’s a lot to report on the minimum wage today, but I’ll start with the biggest news: the New York legislature has approved the state’s 2013-2014 budget, which includes a minimum wage increase. Specifically, the minimum wage will rise from $7.25 to $8.00 per hour on December 31, 2013, to $8.75 one year later, and $9.00 on December 31, 2015.

This is good news for minimum wage workers in New York, nearly two-thirds of whom are women. But the phased-in minimum wage increase in the budget is weaker than the increase that the state Assembly passed just a few weeks ago, which would have raised New York’s minimum wage to $9.00 per hour in one step in January 2014, then indexed the wage annually to keep up with inflation. The budget also drops a provision in the Assembly-passed bill that would have raised the minimum cash wage for tipped food service workers from $5.00 to $6.21 per hour, but it does provide a path to an increase for these workers by authorizing the labor commissioner to have a wage board examine the adequacy of New York’s tipped minimum wage, then issue an order to raise the wage. Read more »

States Taking the Lead on Higher Minimum Wages

It’s been a busy few weeks on the minimum wage front, as policymakers in a slew of states have moved to raise wages for low-paid workers. If you follow our blog, you already know that minimum wage increases are on the agenda in Maryland and New York – and you know that this is especially good news for women, who make up the majority of minimum wage workers in those states and across the country.

While a federal minimum wage increase – like the one proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act last year – is needed to boost pay for minimum wage and tipped workers throughout the U.S., it’s great to see momentum building at the state level. Here’s a quick run-down of recent developments:

  • California. A bill pending in the Assembly, AB-10, would increase the minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $8.25 in 2014, $8.75 in 2015, and $9.25 in 2016, then adjust the wage annually for inflation beginning in 2017.
  • Connecticut. A bill pending in the Senate, S.B. 387, would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 in July 2013 and $9.75 in July 2014, with annual indexing beginning in July 2015. NWLC’s new fact sheet shows that over 246,000 Connecticut workers would get a raise by 2014 under this proposal – and about six in ten of those workers would be women.

Minimum Wage Update: Bad News in Connecticut, But Progress Still Possible

Connecticut’s legislative session ended last night at midnight. Unfortunately, the Senate did not take up the minimum wage bill that passed the House last month, so many workers struggling to get by on $8.25 an hour will have to wait until at least 2013 to get a raise. (The Senate did act at the last minute to approve a bill permitting the keeping of reindeer year-round, though, so to any Connecticut readers who always wished for Rudolph as a pet, you’re in luck!)  

But all is not lost. As I mentioned earlier this week, bills to raise the state minimum wage are still pending in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts, and an increase looks likely to be on Missouri’s ballot in November.

And in a very exciting development at the federal level today, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Bruce Braley (D-IA) just introduced the Rebuild America Act in the House. Like its companion bill introduced by Senator Harkin, the bill would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour over three years and then index it for inflation, and would also gradually raise the minimum cash wage for tipped workers from $2.13 per hour to 70 percent of the minimum wage. Read more »

States Taking the Lead to Raise the Minimum Wage – But Time Running Out in Connecticut

I hope you saw the new infographic we posted this morning. I think it makes a pretty clear case for raising the minimum wage! Fortunately, in recent months, quite a few states have been getting the message: legislatures in Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are all considering bills to increase the state minimum wage, including the minimum wage for tipped workers. And in Missouri, state advocates just delivered 175,000 signatures in support of a voter initiative that would get a minimum wage increase on the ballot in November.

As of today, the bill in Connecticut (H.B. 5291) – which passed the state House of Representatives last month – is closest to being law. At $8.25 per hour, Connecticut’s minimum wage is higher than the federal level ($7.25 per hour), but still leaves a mother with two kids more than $1,000 below the poverty line if she works full time. H.B. 5291 would raise the state minimum wage to $8.75 per hour over two years and raise the minimum cash wage for tipped workers from $5.69 to $6.04 per hour by 2015. Read more »

Circuit Judge Confirmed; Only Eighth This Year. Really.

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted to confirm Christopher Droney to a Connecticut-based seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Remarkably, Judge Droney is only the 8th appellate court judge confirmed by the Senate in 2011. Those members of the Senate determined to slow-walk judicial nominees are apparently determined to do so in every conceivable ca