January 1st marks the start of a new year, and minimum wage workers in over a dozen US states have something to celebrate as they ring in 2014. The minimum wage in 13 states will increase to start out 2014, giving low wage workers in those states an automatic pay raise. In many of the states, workers can thank Democratic legislatures for passing the pay hike. In other states they can thank the voters. Regardless of whether the minimum wage was increased by voter initiative or state lawmakers, the benefits will be immediate for the households that rely on minimum wage jobs to make ends meet.
The largest wage increases will be felt in New Jersey where the state minimum wage will jump from 7.25 to 8.25 an hour, and in New York where the minimum pay will rise from 7.25 to 8.00 an hour. California is also set to raise its minimum wage a dollar from 8 to 9 bucks an hour, but that increase will not take effect until July 1st. Most of the minimum wage increases will take place in Northeastern states or in the West, with only one Southern state (Florida) and two Midwestern states (Ohio and Missouri) increasing worker pay.
Washington and Oregon, which enjoy the highest minimum wages in the country already are each set to give low wage workers a small raise. Oregon’s minimum wage will increase from 8.95 to 9.10 an hour and Washington State’s minimum pay will rise from 9.19 to 9.32 an hour. Minimum wage employees in Vermont will see their rate of pay rise from 8.60 to 8.73 an hour.
Many of the small increases in minimum wages are automatic cost of living hikes that were put in place by voters who supported minimum wage initiatives that included automatic cost of living increases. Missouri voters for example passed a minimum wage increase back in 2004 that was indexed to inflation, enabling minimum wage workers to get an annual pay increase at the beginning of each new year.
in 2014, liberal activists are pushing to get minimum wage increases on the ballots in Massachusetts, Alaska, Idaho and South Dakota. With over three quarters of Americans favoring increasing the federal minimum wage to at least nine dollars an hour, ballot measures to increase the minimum wage stand a strong chance of passing even in very conservatives red states. Although the Republican controlled US House is steadfastly opposed to increasing the federal minimum wage, individual states around the country are not waiting for congressional action to give their low wage workers a pay raise. Although many of the pay increases are inadequate, minimum wage workers in over a dozen states are getting a well deserved pay increase at the start of the new year.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.