Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The minimum wage, once 25 cents an hour, is on the way up again

The federal minimum wage may be higher now than ever, but its purchasing power peaked in 1968 -- 47 years ago. As of last year, full-time minimum wage workers can't afford a two-bedroom apartment in exactly zero states.

As the video above discusses, Congress set the first minimum wage at 25 cents an hour in 1938. President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law, saying:
Without question it starts us toward a better standard of living and increases purchasing power to buy the products of farm and factory.
Congress raised the federal minimum wage 22 times, but only three times in the past 30 years. That's why the purchasing power of the minimum wage peaked in 1968. In the past few years workers at Walmart, department stores, fast food franchises, government contractors, warehouses and seaports have taken to short, sudden strikes to demand higher wages, an end to retaliation and the right to join a union.

The good news is they're succeeding in raising the minimum wage in many states. On Jan. 1, 2015, 20 states raised their minimum wage:

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures,
  • As of Jan. 1, 2015, 29 states and D.C. will have minimum wages above thefederal minimum wage.
  • Four states - Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota - approved minimum wage increases through ballot measures in the 2014 general election; Illinois voters approved an advisory measure.
  • The legislatures in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and D.C. enacted increases during the 2014 session.
  • Minimum wages will go up in nine states on Jan. 1, 2015 because of indexed increases in their state law: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.
More increases are likely in the coming year, though it's unlikely Congress will raise the federal minimum wage.

Wondering where your state stands? Check out this handy chart.