While the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25—$2.60 an hour less (after adjusting for inflation) than it was in 1968—some states have instituted a higher minimum, or even indexed the minimum wage to inflation. In eight of those states—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington—the minimum wage will go up automatically on Jan. 1, raising wages for more than a million minimum-wage workers.
That's good news for those people, a group that extends far beyond the "teenager with an after-school job" Republicans like to cite in resisting attempts to raise the minimum. In fact, according to Heidi Shierholz at the Economic Policy Institute, "The overwhelming majority—83.4%—of those affected by [a minimum wage] increase are at least 20 years old. Full-time workers make up 56.7% of the total, and only 14.4% work fewer than 20 hours."
According to calculations from the National Employment Law Project, Arizona and Montana's increases of 30 cents an hour, to $7.65, means an additional $624 of income in a year for a full-time worker, while workers in Ohio and Oregon will gain the same $624 as the minimum wages in those states rise to $7.70 and $8.80, respectively. Colorado will go up 28 cents, to $7.64, an additional $582. Vermont workers will see a 31 cent increase to $8.46, meaning an annual raise of $645. In Florida, full-time workers will earn $749 more as the minimum wage rises 36 cents to $7.67. Washington state workers will gain more than workers in any other state, with the minimum wage rising 37 cents an hour to $9.04 for a $770 annual increase.
Workers in these eight states still won't be exactly raking in the big bucks, and their raises are small. But at least they're getting a raise, unlike minimum-wage workers in 42 other states. Cause for celebration, and a reminder of how important state-level elections and organizing can be.