While the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has hit poor Americans the hardest, minimum wage earners in 20 U.S. states will get raises at the start of the new year. Four more states, plus Washington, DC, will raise their minimum wages later in 2021.
Florida’s workers will get one of the biggest raises, after voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure in November to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. The lowest-earning workers there earn $8.56 per hour and will move up to $8.65 on Jan. 1 and then $10 on Sept. 30.
Even without state mandates like Florida’s, some businesses have increased wages on their own, including Florida-based Lakewood Juices, which boosted the wage for its lowest earners to $15 four years ago. That boost “improves our own workers’ productivity,” according to Lakewood CEO Scott Fuhrman, who’s part of a national network called Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.
Florida joins a range of states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — that are all in the process of gradually increasing their minimum wage to $15. California’s minimum wage is set to reach $14 in 2021 and then $15 in 2022. Other states will reach $15 an hour in the subsequent years.
Certain localities — like New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, and others — already have minimum wages at or above $15.
The full list of states set to see a wage increase on Jan. 1 include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington state.
‘I can only sell so much juice to the 1%’
The federal minimum wage by contrast has been fixed at $7.25 an hour since 2009, and that amount applies in 21 states. During the 2020 campaign, President-elect Joe Biden voiced support for raising the national minimum wage but will likely face opposition from Republicans and even some moderate Democrats.
Just one example is newly elected U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado. During a 2019 interview on Yahoo Finance as a Democratic Presidential candidate, he said that the minimum wage “can’t be a blanket,” noting that a $15-an-hour minimum wage in certain areas of the country “is not realistic, it just isn’t.”
Some industry groups — like the National Restaurant Association — have also long opposed minimum wage increases and argued they will cost jobs.
Fuhrman disagrees, contending increased wages will help give greater buying power to more people which ultimately helps everyone. “I can only sell so much juice to the 1% so let’s try and grow the middle class and one way to do that is by raising the minimum wage,” he told Yahoo Finance Live on Monday.
In 2019, the Democratic House of Representatives passed a bill to gradually increase the federal minimum wage to $15. The Democratic case to business leaders at the time essentially boiled down to: It’s not going to be as bad as you think. During a Yahoo Finance interview, Rep. Bobby Scott said of businesses, “They’ll have to adjust, but they’re adjusting every year anyway.”
The Senate never passed the bill.