It has been almost four years since President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage. While Congress has refused to take action, this hasn’t dissuaded states and localities from stepping up and giving American workers the raises they need and deserve. Election Day was no exception. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington cast their ballots to ensure that hard work is rewarded with a fair wage.
The resounding win for minimum wage ballot initiatives in these states will collectively result in nearly 2.2 million workers getting a raise.*
- In Arizona, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 779,000 workers. Flagstaff passed an even bigger raise − $15 by 2021.
- In Colorado, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 477,000 workers.
- In Maine, the minimum wage will be raised to $12 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 181,000 workers.
- In Washington, the minimum wage will be raised to $13.50 by 2020, lifting the earnings of 730,000 workers.
The Election Day results are another reminder that for most Americans, raising the minimum wage isn’t a partisan issue but rather a commonsense decision. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia – home to 61 percent of all U.S. workers − have minimum wage rates above the federal rate of $7.25.
Voters and policymakers in these states understand what labor economists have spent decades researching and confirming: minimum wage increases have caused little to no significant job loss, but they have reduced employee turnover, strengthened families’ finances, and ultimately helped grow our economy. As our economy continues to recover from the greatest economic crisis in generations, we should all share in the prosperity we are building. And there is no easier way to do that than by raising the minimum wage.
By casting their ballots for a fair wage, the residents of Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington renewed President Obama’s call to take action. It’s time raise the minimum wage for all workers in America.
Dr. Heidi Shierholz is the department’s chief economist.
*Source: The Economic Policy Institute.
Note: In Arizona and Washington, the approved minimum wage ballot initiatives also require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Expanding access to paid sick leavehas been another top priority of the Obama administration, and these ballot victories will help thousands more workers be able to address their health needs without putting their or their families’ economic security at risk.