Millions of Workers Saw Minimum Wage Rise in 2016, No Thanks to Congress

by Laura Clawson –

The federal minimum wage remained stuck at $7.25 an hour, with a tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, in 2016. And with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, that won’t be changing anytime soon. The good news is, cities and states continued taking action of their own in 2016, so a lot of workers got a raise and will see further increases in 2017 and beyond.

  • California became the first state to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage, though workers won’t actually be paid $15 until 2022.
  • New York sort of passed a $15 an hour minimum wage, but it’s complicated. Different areas of the state will get to $15 at different times, and the schedule could be delayed past a certain point. But New York City workers will get $15 at the end of 2018.
  • Washington, D.C. also passed a $15 an hour minimum wage.
  • Oregon passed another of these complicated laws that will raise the minimum wage at different rates in different parts of the state. Workers in the Portland metro area will get $14.75 in July 2022.
  • Chicago’s minimum wage will be rising to $13 by 2019, and the rest of Cook County will rise to $13 by 2020.
  • On Election Day, voters in Arizona, Colorado, and Maine voted in increases to $12 an hour, while Washington state said yes to $13.50.

The fight isn’t over in 2017.

  • The New Jersey legislature passed a $15 minimum wage bill in 2016, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. Backers said they’d try to get $15 on the ballot in 2017. Meanwhile, thanks to an earlier referendum vote, minimum wage workers will get a six cent raise, from $8.38 to $8.44, on January 1 to keep pace with inflation.
  • Despite Maine voters raising their state’s minimum wage in November, Gov. Paul LePage is trying to block it from happening.
  • Baltimore and Montgomery County, Maryland, failed to pass $15 proposals, so the fight goes on there.
  • States like Alabama and Ohio are passing ALEC-backed legislation blocking cities and counties from raising the minimum wage locally.
  • And, of course, the end goal is to take over Congress and win the White House and get a federal minimum wage increase passed. But that’s a fight that’ll take years at this point.

The Fight for $15 has had some big wins and workers are still fighting. At the very least, workers in many states will keep getting raises as part of laws that phase in a higher minimum wage in steps, and laws that index the minimum wage to inflation. But the low-hanging fruit has been picked—and the wins won’t be getting any easier.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos