The retail-worker strikes that swept the nation in 2013 did not move Congress to raise the minimum wage, but a growing number of states are taking action.
The minimum wage will rise in 13 states this week, and as many as 11 states and Washington, D.C., are expected to consider increases in 2014, according to the National Employment Law Project. Approval is likely in more than half of the 11, says NELP policy analyst Jack Temple.
The trend reflects growing concerns about the disproportionate spread of low-wage jobs in the U.S. economy, creating millions of financially strained workers and putting too little money in consumers' pockets to spur faster economic growth.
On Jan. 1, state minimum wages will be higher than the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour in 21 states, up from 18 two years ago. Temple expects another nine states to drift above the federal minimum by the end of 2014, marking the first time minimum pay in most states will be above the federal level.
"2014 is poised to be a turning point," Temple says. "States are seeing the unemployment rate is going down, but job growth is disproportionately concentrated in low-wage industries. (They're) frustrated that Congress is dragging its feet."
Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island legislatures voted to raise the minimum hourly wage by as much as $1. Wages will rise to $8 to $8.70 by Wednesday. In California, a $1 increase to $9 is scheduled July 1.
Smaller automatic increases tied to inflation will take effect in nine states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
States such as Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire and South Dakota plan to weigh increases next year through legislation or ballot initiatives.
The legislative movement has been partly fueled by walkouts this year in at least 100 cities by fast-food workers who are calling for $15-an-hour pay and the right to form unions. Wal-Martworkers have staged similar protests.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 3.6 million hourly paid workers received wages at or below the federal minimum in 2012.
President Obama has said he supports legislation in Congress to lift the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three steps over two years, then index it to inflation, but it faces an uphill climb in Congress.
Original headline: Some states to boost minimum wage
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