One of the top minimum wage stories of 2020 was the same as one of the top minimum wage stories of 2019: Congress—Republicans, specifically—continued to block a federal minimum wage increase, every day setting a new record for how long the U.S. minimum wage has stayed the same. That record was broken on June 16, 2019, and the value of the $7.25 an hour minimum wage continues to erode as living costs go up. Republicans do not care.
The other big minimum wage story of 2020 was Florida voters passing a constitutional amendment gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 in 2026. The first raise will take the state from the current level of $8.56 an hour to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021. Notably, just over 60% of Florida voters supported this amendment, even as Donald Trump won the state—which tells you something about how much voters connect candidates to their policies, how effectively Democratic candidates convey support for a minimum wage increase, or both.
Portland, Maine, voters also approved a gradual increase to $15 by 2024, with tipped workers to be paid half the non-tipped minimum wage. The local Chamber of Commerce is suing to block a provision that would create an emergency minimum wage of time-and-a-half—since the city’s current minimum wage is $12, that would raise it to $18 during the coronavirus pandemic emergency.
The minimum wage went up in many states due to previously scheduled increases: Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, and Vermont had automatic cost of living increases, while Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Washington had step increases as they work their way up after earlier legislation or ballot initiatives. Those increases will in most cases be repeated in 2021.
This year did not see as many new minimum wage increases as in recent years. For one thing, 29 states and the District of Columbia now have minimum wages above the federal rate—the low-hanging fruit was picked a while ago, and frankly some of the not-so-low-hanging fruit as well. Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic was doubtless an impediment to ground organizing for ballot measures in many states and cities—though the Portland emergency pay provision shows a really good response that more cities should have adopted.
If Republicans continue to control the Senate in 2021, Mitch McConnell is going to continue to stand in the way of a minimum wage increase, though Democrats will have substantially more leverage than they’ve had through the past four years to really hammer home that this is a historic blockade on progress for working people and that it rests solely on one party. Raising the federal minimum wage can be and must be part of an economic recovery from the pandemic that extends past the wealthy to working people.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.