When dozens of New York fast food workers walked off the job in 2013 demanding minimum pay of $15 per hour, their campaign seemed like a longshot. But two years, several nationwide strikes and new rules laws later, a $15 minimum wage is becoming a reality for millions of workers across the United States.
The workers' campaign, known as Fast Food Forward and backed by the Service Employees International Union, has slowly gained momentum through a series of increasingly large one-day strikes targeting fast food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King. At first, the effects of the strikes seemed small, with individual restaurant owners conceding to minuscule wage increases for some of their workers. But even as businesspeople were doing their best to ignore the movement, politicians were paying close attention.
Over the last two years, several cities and now the entire state of New York either have or are in the process of enacting a $15 minimum wage for various workers. Here’s a look at the cities that have enacted huge pay increases, and the ones that could still be to come.
How it Happened: A wage board appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a recommendation Wednesday to increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour across the state, up from the current $8.75. Cuomo has enthusiastically backed the initiative.
The Plan: In New York City, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 by the end of this year, then increase incrementally each year to reach $15 by 2018. In the rest of the state, the increments will be smaller and $15 will be reached by 2021. The wage increases apply only to fast food chains with at least 30 locations in the U.S.
The Effect: None yet, since the measure still must be approved by the state’s labor commissioner. Experts predict other types of businesses that employ low-wage workers, like retailers or landscapers, will have to increase wages to compete with fast food restaurants.
How it Happened: Mayor Ed Murray made increasing the minimum wage one of his first priorities when taking office at the start of 2014. In May of that year, he put forth a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage from Washington state’s rate of $9.32 to to $15 over several years. The city council approved the measure a month later.
The Plan: Workers at large businesses with 500 or more U.S. employees will see their wages hit $15 per her hour by 2017. Workers at businesses with fewer than 500 U.S. employees will reach that rate by 2021. After the hikes, large businesses will have to keep increasing wages to keep pace with inflation.
The Effects So Far: The first stage of Seattle’s plan went into effect in April 2015, with large businesses raising their minimum wage to $11 per hour and small businesses’ wages rising to $10. So far, the effects are largely anecdotal. Some local restaurants have raised prices from 4 to 21%. In nearby SeaTac, where the minimum wage for some workers jumped to $15 per hour last year, there hasn’t been any measurable economic fallout.
How it Happened: City residents voted by a large majority to raise the city’s minimum wage from $10.74 to $15 last November.
The Plan: Wages have already jumped to $12.25, and will increase to $15 by 2018. After that, the minimum wage will increase every year at a rate tied to the consumer price index.
The Effects So Far: This year’s wage increase boosted the pay for as many as 86,000 workers, most of whom were women and minorities, according to one estimate. However, at least one local bookstore said it would close due to the increased costs.
How it Happened: The Los Angeles city council voted in May to increase the local minimum wage to $15 by 2020, up from the current $9. This week the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 for people working in unincorporated parts of the county.
The Plan: Workers will earn $10.50 per hour starting next year, with incremental increases until they make $15 in 2020. The hikes are delayed by a year for workers at businesses with 25 or fewer employees. After reaching $15, annual minimum wage increases will be tied to the consumer price index.
The Effects So Far: Because many cities in L.A. County, like Pasadena and Long Beach, haven’t yet committed to matching the county’s wage increase, prices for goods and services at stores very close to one another could become highly skewed.
How it Might Happen: Residents of the nation’s capital will vote next year on whether to increase the minimum wage to $15 from the current $10.50.
The Plan: The minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour by 2020 and would afterward be tied to increases in the consumer price index.