Since the Fight for $15 began in November 2012, more than 40 cities and counties, and more than 20 states have adopted minimum wage increases. NELP estimates that about 19 million workers have won almost $62 billion in annual raises, and a growing numbers of U.S. states and cities in just the last few years are adopting a minimum wage of $15 per hour. SeaTac, Washington, which was the first city to do so, approved a $15 minimum wage in 2013. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee brokered an agreement between labor and business to place a $15 minimum wage on the November 2014 ballot, which the voters overwhelmingly approved, and the Los Angeles city council approved a $15 minimum wage in 2015. California and New York approved a statewide $15 minimum wage in 2016. About 10 million workers have benefitted from these $15 minimum wage laws so far.
An increase in the Minneapolis minimum wage to $15 per hour will benefit 23 percent of workers in Minneapolis, or approximately 71,000 people. Workers in the city simply cannot make ends meet on the state’s minimum wage. The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator estimates that a single worker with no children who works full-time needed $13.10 per hour in 2014 to make ends meet in the Minneapolis/St. Paul/Bloomington metro area, and a single worker with one child working full-time needed about $26 per hour in 2014 to afford the basics. The cost of living in the City is among the highest in the state.
Chris Owens, Executive Director at the National Employment Law Project, wrote:
“With its spread today into the American heartland, the Fight for $15 continues to change the country. The increase is a testament to the bravery of workers who went on strike, spoke out, and marched in the streets, beating back a cruel preemption bill in the state legislature that would have snatched away their hopes for higher pay and basic economic security. It’s a victory not only for the fast-food cooks and homecare workers whose lives will improve, but also for the city’s economy as a whole, which will grow stronger with more money in the pockets of 71,000 workers. Cities and states from coast to coast are poised to follow Minneapolis’ lead as the Fight for $15 continues to gain momentum.
“The Minneapolis City Council also deserves credit for making its city the first in the Midwest to pass a $15 minimum wage, and for making sure tipped workers receive the same wages as non-tipped workers.”
Minneapolis, McDonald’s worker Guillermo Lindsey, who is paid $10/hour, said on behalf of the Fight for $15:
“Fifteen an hour has officially arrived in the heartland! It wasn’t easy, but after years of going on strike, taking to the streets and raising our voices for higher wages, we have finally won the raise we need. Getting paid $15/hour will help us pay for groceries, make the rent, and cover the basics without relying on public assistance. We’re proud that Minneapolis is the first city in the Midwest to pass $15/hour, but we promise it won’t be the last. This movement has momentum that can’t be stopped, and we’ll keep on standing up and speaking out until everyone, everywhere is paid at least $15/hour and has the right to join a union.”
Minneapolis’ $15 legislation is also notable because it rejected the restaurant industry’s efforts to carve out tipped workers by creating a tip credit. Minnesota is one of seven states that guarantees One Fair Wage for tipped workers and non-tipped workers. Ensuring that all workers, including tipped workers, are entitled to the same base minimum wage regardless of tips received is a crucial part of any minimum wage increase that seeks to make a significant difference for low wage workers. The complex subminimum wage system is difficult to enforce and results in widespread noncompliance. It has also been tied to higher rates of poverty and economic insecurity for tipped workers.
Opponents of the legislation may argue that it will result in job losses, but the most rigorous research over the past 20 years—examining scores of state and local minimum wage increases across the U.S.—demonstrates that these increases have raised workers’ incomes without reducing employment. NELP summarized key economic research and findings in the testimony it submitted in support of the Minneapolis $15 bill. Most recently, a study released earlier this week and conducted by the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law has boosted pay for restaurant workers without costing jobs.