Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so
According to The Wall Street Journal, "Fed and Treasury
officials have identified the disease. It's called de-leveraging, or
the unwinding of debt. During the credit boom, financial institutions
and American households took on too much debt." But let's not buy into a false equivalence of "financial
institutions" and those "American households" borrowing beyond their
With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:
This week, Maryland became the first state to enact a "living wage" law, HB 430, requiring government contractors to pay their employees a decent wage, in the bill ranging from $8.50 an hour in rural areas to $11.30 an hour in areas of the state with higher costs of living. Maryland follows the 120 local governments around the country that have required that public money go to companies that pay their workers above the poverty line.
The New York Timeslooks at the neighboring towns of Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA. The neighboring cities lie just opposite eachother, separated by the state border. They're also separated by an economic border -- Idaho's minimum wage is $5.15. Washington's is $7.93.
When Washington embraced its higher minimum wage, some business owners cried bloody murder.
This week, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa approved a new city law
requiring hotels near the LAX airport to pay the same living wage as
those companies receiving government contracts: $9.39 an hour if the
hotels provide health insurance or $10.64 an hour without benefits.
By a vote of 35 to 14, the Chicago city council yesterday approved a new ordinance
requiring large retailers in the city to phase in a living wage for
their employees of $10 per hour plus $3 per hour in benefits-- the
highest minimum wage established for any industry sector in the
country. If signed by the mayor, the law would raise pay for tens of
thousands of workers in retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us,
Lowe's and Home Depot. A broad coalition of organizations including
ACORN, labor unions and church groups worked together for its passage.
The Massachusetts House is likely to approve a hike in the minimum wage following passage of the bill in the Senate. The bill, which increases the minimum to $8.00, does not tie the minimum wage to inflation in order to address cost-of-living adjustments in the future.
Governor Mitt Romney pledged in 2002 to support efforts to tie the minimum wage to changes in cost-of-living.
Following Chicago's lead, DC Councilman Phill Mendelson has introduced a bill to require
large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco to pay employees a living
wage of $11 an hour plus health benefits worth at least $3 a hour. The
bill also would give labor groups and the public access to public areas
of a firm to communicate with employees about their rights. As we
detailed in last week's Dispatch, a major committee and a majority of Chicago City Council members have endorsed a similar bill for that city.