EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS
Fight for $20: New Minimum Wage Push
By Kris Janisch
Updated May 2023
Since the Fight for $15 started in 2012, dozens of jurisdictions have passed new minimum wage laws. Many of these are at the city level, where several rates have long since passed the $15 threshold. Now, the Fight for $20 minimum wage push is afoot.
The Fight for $15 has seemingly evolved into the Fight for $20.
It has already been more than a decade since hundreds of fast food workers in New York walked off the job, asking for a $15 minimum wage and other improved labor conditions. Since then, of course, the minimum wage movement has expanded. And lawmakers have responded.
Since the Fight for $15 started in 2012, dozens of jurisdictions have passed new minimum wage laws. Many of these are at the city level, where several rates have long since passed the $15 threshold.
Meanwhile, with inflation still a concern and little movement on a federal rate increase, some are pushing for a Fight for $20, as evidenced by bills under consideration in New York, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
Minimum Wage Management. Simplified.
What is the fight for $20 minimum wage?
As way of background, there has been a long push for a $15 minimum wage. Three states at the beginning of 2023 hit or passed the previous hallmark number of $15:
- California minimum wage ($15.50, now applying to all employers)
- Massachusetts minimum wage ($15)
- Washington State minimum wage ($15.74)
So, the Fight for $20 may seem inevitable, especially for employers that have locations in progressive states.
At the same time, several states have scheduled increases to reach a $15 minimum wage in the coming years. Plus, a number of cities are beyond that figure, including many in California, along with Seattle. In case you’re wondering: Which has the highest standard minimum wage in 2023?
Fight for $20: What’s Next
In the wake of these increases, activists have launched efforts to push for a minimum wage of $20 or higher. In places like New York State and Massachusetts, lobbyists and other progressive groups are asking legislators to rethink existing minimum wage policy.
Meanwhile, others say tying minimum wage increases to the applicable Consumer Price Index is a more palatable way to raise wages for workers.
“Indexing is definitely a really good policy to make sure that workers’ paychecks are not as impacted by what we’re going through right now,” in terms of inflation, the National Employment Law Project’s Yannet Lathrop told Politico.
Indexing is an increasingly common practice. States with indexed rates in place include:
- Alaska – In effect; current rate: $10.85
- Arizona – In effect; current rate: $13.85
- Colorado – In effect; current rate: $13.65
- Maine – In effect; current rate: $12.75
- Minnesota – In effect; current rate: $10.58
- Missouri – Effective Jan. 1, 2024; current rate: $12
- Montana – In effect; current rate: $9.95
- New York – In effect; current rate: $14.20
- Ohio – In effect; current rate: $10.10
- Oregon – Effective July 1, 2023; separate minimum wage rates apply depending on county population density
- South Dakota – In effect; current rate: $10.80
- Vermont – Effective Jan. 1, 2023; current rate: $13.18
Still, these gradual increases aren’t enough, some labor advocates argue, which has helped spur the idea that the Fight for $15 should become the Fight for $20 for minimum wage earners in the U.S.
As the media has picked up such stories of late, it could be a harbinger of how lawmakers approach minimum wage laws moving forward.
Minimum Wage Compliance Resources
Minimum Wage in the U.S.
Employers that operate across the country already know of the challenges of managing minimum wage rates.
From industry-specific rates and tipped wages, indexing and more, the complexities of minimum wage continue to grow. Add in ballot measures and other groups lobbying for a Fight for $20, and the difficulties for employers to track and apply minimum wage rates will likely be the norm in the future.
Meanwhile, these laws can be more complicated than simply knowing the rates. Cook County, Ill., allows cities to opt in or out of its ordinance. And Oregon minimum wage applies its rate based on county (but not entirely).
Plus, employers can’t always rely on regular timeframes for minimum wage increases. A handful of jurisdictions do not update on July 1 or Jan. 1 each year. Some recent examples include:
- The minimum wage in Florida increased twice in 2021
- In Connecticut, minimum wage in 2021 increased on Sept. 1; in 2022 it increased on July 1; it goes up again June 1, 2023
- In California, San Mateo County’s minimum wage went up April 1, 2023
- Washington, D.C., will see its tipped minimum wage increase May 1, 2023, but its standard rate won’t increase until July 1, 2023 (though it was pushed back due to a congressional review delay)
These and other facets of minimum wage laws keep employers on their toes.
Should the Fight for $20 gain footing, as the previous Fight for $15 did, large employers would be wise to keep an eye on jurisdictions where they have locations, especially in more progressive areas.
California, New York and the coasts of the U.S. are generally at the forefront of employment law trends. How these jurisdictions approach minimum wage could lead to more laws and compliance concerns in the months and years ahead.
On the other side of the coin, it is worth noting that several states still follow the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t increased in more than a decade. As of April 2023, they are:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- New Hampshire
- South Carolina
At the same time, some of these states have explored new rates. Notably, Pennsylvania has renewed a push for a new minimum wage rate. Even still, it’s incumbent upon employers to monitor and track minimum wage rates, especially in light of the new Fight for $20.
This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.
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