New minimum wage increases are coming to 13 states beginning on January 1. Though Congress has yet to discuss the minimum wage debate in Washington, states are dealing with the matter themselves. This year has been characterized by on-going fast food worker strikes and demonstrations for wage increases. The widespread support for upping the minimum wage is also likely to color the coming gubernatorial elections in 2014.
As it stands, the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour. State minimum wage increases coming in the New Year range from Missouri’s 25 cent bump to Washington’s new $9.32 minimum, more than a $2 increase. This will raise the number of states that have pushed their own minimum wage limits past the federal government’s to 21. Most of the states with increases coming later this week had raised minimum wages before, but New Jersey and New York will be doing so for the first time.
Other states seeing increases include Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Florida.
In the coming year, another 11 states and Washington D.C. will be looking at their own minimum wage laws for possible increases. According to policy analysts, more than half of these states are likely to agree to increases. Minnesota’s House and Senate have both passed separate minimum wage increases, but will wait until next year to come to a final agreement.
The fast food strikes this year highlighted the large number of US workers that subsist on minimum wage, without a doubt a key factor in the new state minimum wage increases. Many of those demonstrating have demanded $15 an hour pay, more than double what some minimum wage laborers earn.
Democrats, looking to the coming 2014 elections, are expected to campaign in support of increasing the minimum wage. Seeking to unseat Republican governors, Democratic hopefuls have already begun lobbying on the issue in the early days of their campaigns.
Senate Democrats have also adopted the issue. They are proposing a 40 percent increase of the federal minimum wage. President Obama also says he supports a federal minimum wage increase. He says wants to see a boost to $10.10 an hour over the course of the next two years.
Critics say increasing the minimum wage will negatively impact employers. Because costs will be higher, they argue workers will have to be laid off to fit the budget. Those pushing for federal minimum wage increases, however, say that laws have not changed to match rising inflation and cost of living.