Pay to rise for millions as 19 states increase minimum wage

The Associated Press

TUMWATER — Washington state’s minimum wage will increase to $11 an hour today, the first of a multistep increase approved by voters last month.

Initiative 1433 incrementally raises the state’s rate over the next four years to $13.50 an hour. The new law also requires employers to provide paid sick leave starting Jan. 1, 2018.

The new minimum wage applies to all jobs, including those in agriculture. Workers who are younger than 16 years old can be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage — $9.35 per hour — next year.

For employers in cities that already have higher minimum wages — Seattle, Tacoma and the city of SeaTac — the local minimum wage rate will apply as long as it is higher than the state minimum.

Under the new law, the statewide minimum wage will increase to $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and will hit $13.50 an hour in 2020.

Washington is among 19 states that will ring in the year with an increase in the minimum wage.

Washington state and Massachusetts will have the highest new minimum wages in the nation at $11 per hour.

California will raise its wage to $10.50 for businesses with 26 or more employees. New York state is taking a regional approach, with the wage rising to $11 in New York City, $10 in its downstate suburbs and $9.70 elsewhere.

Voters in Arizona, Maine and Colorado also approved increases in this year’s election. Seven other states, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota, are automatically raising the wage based on indexing. The other states seeing increases are Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont.

In Arizona, the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry filed a lawsuit challenging the increase, which will raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10. On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to temporarily block the raise.

Workers and labour advocates argue the increases will help low-wage workers now barely making ends meet and boost the economy by giving some consumers more money to spend. But many business owners opposed the higher wages, saying they would lead to higher prices and greater automation.

The minimum wage also will go up this weekend in 22 cities and counties, including San Diego, San Jose and Seattle.

The high number of states and localities raising the wage this year reflects the successful work of fast-food workers and organized labour, according to Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project, as well as federal inaction on the wage. The national minimum was last raised, to $7.25, in 2009.

“These aren’t only teens trying to make some pocket money,” she said. “Increasingly it’s adults who are using this money to support their families.”

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