Minimum wage to reach or exceed $15 in 17 localities

The minimum wage reached or surpassed $15 an hour in 17 localities across the country on New Year’s Day, according to a report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP.)

The House earlier this year passed the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour; however, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMinimum wage to reach or exceed in 17 localities Republican group to run ads in target states demanding testimony from White House officials in Trump impeachment trial Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama MORE (R-Tenn.) does not plan to advance the bill in the Senate.

In the absence of congressional action, states and cities are taking the lead.

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Beginning this month, 21 states and 26 cities and counties will phase in minimum wage increases or adjust their wage floors to keep pace with the rising cost of living, according to NELP, which hailed the trend as “unprecedented.”

And later this year there will be another round of raises in four states and 23 cities and counties, with 15 localities seeing their minimum wage rise to at least $15 an hour.

The $15 hourly rate previously only applied to businesses with more than 11 employees, but was expanded to all New York City workers on Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, minimum wage in the District of Columbia will also rise to $15 an hour — a one dollar increase from its current level — starting in July.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of states, cities and counties raise the minimum wage,” said Yannet Lathrop, a researcher and policy analyst with NELP, who authored the report on minimum wage increases across the country. 

“It shows the incredible momentum that the ‘Fight for $15’ movement has built up. Local communities all around the country strongly support raising the minimum wage, because people see their friends, neighbors, or themselves working hard but not getting ahead,” she said in a statement. “People who work low-wage jobs need and deserve a raise — and companies can afford it. There’s no excuse.”

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Illinois and St. Paul, Minn., will raise their wage floors twice: once in January and again in July.

In seven states the minimum wage will rise due to Consumer Price Index-related cost-of-living adjustments, according to NELP.

In 17 cities and counties, including Redwood and San Mateo, Calif., the wage floor will rise to keep pace with inflation.

The issue of a higher national minimal wage has gained momentum since 2015 when Democrats in Congress unified around a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2020.

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