Pay in­crease for mil­lions as 19 US states raise min­i­mum wage

‘This will make a dif­fer­ence for so many peo­ple’

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

AL­BANY:

It will be a happy New Year in­deed for mil­lions of the low­est-paid US work­ers. Nine­teen states, in­clud­ing New York and Cal­i­for­nia, will ring in the year with an in­crease in the min­i­mum wage. Mas­sachusetts and Wash­ing­ton state will have the high­est new min­i­mum wages in the coun­try, at $11 per hour.

Cal­i­for­nia will raise its wage to $10.50 for busi­nesses with 26 or more em­ploy­ees. New York state is tak­ing a re­gional ap­proach, with the wage ris­ing to $11 in New York City, to $10.50 for small busi­nesses in the city, $10 in its down­state sub­urbs and $9.70 else­where. Some spe­cific busi­nesses - fast-food restau­rants and the small­est New York City busi­nesses - will have slightly dif­fer­ent wage re­quire­ments.

“This $1.50 in­crease, I can­not even com­pre­hend or tell you how im­por­tant this will be,” said Alvin Ma­jor, a New York City fast-food worker. The 51-year-old fa­ther of four helped lead the fight for the in­crease in his state, one of sev­eral suc­cess­ful ef­forts by fast-food work­ers and other low wage work­ers around the coun­try. “The price of food has gone up. Rent has gone up. Every­thing has gone up . ... This will make a dif­fer­ence for so many peo­ple.”

Mak­ing ends meet

Vot­ers in Ari­zona, Maine, Colorado and Wash­ing­ton ap­proved in­creases in this year’s elec­tion. Seven other states, Alaska, Florida, Mis­souri, Mon­tana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota, are au­to­mat­i­cally rais­ing the wage based on in­dex­ing. The other states see­ing in­creases are Arkansas, Con­necti­cut, Hawaii, Michi­gan and Ver­mont. Ad­di­tional in­creases are slated for later in the year in Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton, DC, and Mary­land.

In Ari­zona, the state Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try filed a law­suit chal­leng­ing the in­crease, which will raise the min­i­mum wage from $8.05 to $10. On Thurs­day, the Ari­zona Supreme Court re­fused to tem­po­rar­ily block the raise. Work­ers and la­bor ad­vo­cates ar­gue the in­creases will help low-wage work­ers now barely mak­ing ends meet and boost the econ­omy by giv­ing some con­sumers more money to spend. But many busi­ness own­ers op­posed the higher wages, say­ing they would lead to higher prices and greater au­to­ma­tion.

Some restau­rant own­ers may con­sider re­duc­ing por­tion sizes or charg­ing for side dishes that were once in­cluded in the price of a meal to ab­sorb the in­crease, ac­cord­ing to Melissa Fleis­chut, pres­i­dent of the New York State Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion. “I’m sure prices will go up where they can, but restau­rants want to avoid sticker shock,” she said. “They’re go­ing to have to get cre­ative.” The ad­just­ments in New York, Cal­i­for­nia and sev­eral other states are part of a se­ries of grad­ual in­creases to a $12 or $15 hourly wage.

The min­i­mum wage will also go up this week­end in 22 cities and coun­ties, in­clud­ing San Diego, San Jose and Seat­tle. The high num­ber of states and lo­cal­i­ties rais­ing the wage this year re­flects the suc­cess­ful work of fast-food work­ers and or­ga­nized la­bor, ac­cord­ing to Tsed­eye Ge­bre­se­lassie, se­nior staff at­tor­ney at the Na­tional Em­ploy­ment Law Project, as well as fed­eral in­ac­tion on the wage. The na­tional min­i­mum was last raised, to $7.25, in 2009. “These aren’t only teens try­ing to make some pocket money,” she said. “In­creas­ingly it’s adults who are us­ing this money to sup­port their fam­i­lies.” — AP

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