The fight to raise the minimum wage is going local.
Congress failed to raise the minimum wage for the fifth year straight in July. Today, the federal wage floor of $7.25 is worth 30 percent less than the minimum wage of 1968, which was only $1.60. But thankfully, states and cities are realizing the dire need for action. Here are five cities that are in heated battles over raising the minimum wage:
1) Seattle. Seattle made national news this summer when it voted for a $15 minimum wage. This is a marked increase from the statewide rate of $9.32, but is consistent with a living wage. However, the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association have joined a lawsuit brought by the International Franchise Association seeking to halt implementation. Most recently, an organizer asked for $1.1 million to stop the increase.
2) San Diego. The San Diego City Council raised the minimum wage this month, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed the action. With a poll showing 63 percent support of the raise, the City Council fired back last week, overriding the veto and enacting the stepped increase to $11.50. Now, opponents are circulating petitions for a ballot measure to reverse course. While organizers need 34,000 signatures for their petition, there are allegations that the sponsors are misleading voters.
3) Los Angeles. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has reportedly circulated a proposed increase in the city’s minimum wage around to business leaders in recent weeks. Earlier this summer, the city saw debate over hotel workers’ wages. Garcetti is now expected to announce his plan on Labor Day: a gradual increase to $13.25 over three years, with annual inflation-based increases. Business leaders have yet to release their position.
4) San Francisco. San Francisco made history 11 years ago as the first city to raise its own minimum wage. Residents will again be asked to increase the wage this November, but this time to $15. In fact, there are several ballot initiatives throughout the Bay Area making similar increases. A recent report from researchers at UC Berkeley says that the $15 minimum would help almost a fourth of the city’s workforce.
5) Chicago. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is forging ahead and pushing for a citywide increase to $13. Though all Illinois voters will see a non-binding referendum on a $10 minimum wage, Emanuel now plans to take action regardless of the how the state legislature moves forward. 84% of Chicagoans support the increase to $13 and even among those who make over $100k annually, support is strong at 71%.
BOTTOM LINE: States and cities know that it’s time we have an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. They also know that the 13 states which saw increases in their minimum wage this year actually experienced faster job growth. This Labor Day, remember that our economy grows from the middle-out, not the top-down.