Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A minimum wage demonstration in 2015. (Photo: Fibonacci Blue/flickr/cc)

As Workers Win Local Pay Hikes for 2019, Sanders Says 'We Must Raise Federal Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour'

"Our voices are being heard, and our movement is stronger than ever. We won't stop until every worker across the country gets the pay they deserve."

Julia Conley

More than five million workers in states and cities across the country will see their incomes increase in 2019, thanks to the push for a higher minimum wage by groups including Fight for $15.

The federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25, where it has stood for a decade. But tireless advocacy by Fight for $15, which began its push in 2012 with 200 fast food workers going on strike to demand a living wage and the right to unionize, has pressured state legislators as well as voters to call for minimum wage hikes. As a result, twenty states and 21 cities will raise wages in the year ahead, with low-wage workers earning an estimated $5.4 billion more over the course of 2019.

"Happy 2019 to the millions of working Americans who are getting raises because of minimum wage boosts," tweeted Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "This wasn't given to anyone—it happened because we stuck together in the Fight for $15 and fought for a better life."

Progressive lawmakers including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) also applauded the minimum wage hikes and the advocacy of Fight for $15—while pledging to continue the fight for increases at the federal level.

States including Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, and Washington are raising their minimum wages, with plans to increase them to at least $12 per hour in the coming years. California will increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022 and Massachusetts will do the same by 2023.

Workers in some of the country's most expensive cities will also earn more starting January 1, with businesses in Seattle required to pay employees $16 per hour and many in New York City required to pay $15 per hour.

"The American people believe in the value of work—and that workers deserve to be valued. That's why there's such strong support for raising the minimum wage." —Christine Owens, NELPThe Fight for $15 has "motivated many [lawmakers] to accept that we need higher minimum wages than we currently have in much of the country," David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, told the Associated Press.

Voters in several states have also indicated that they've had enough of a federal minimum wage that is too low to pay the monthly rent on an average two-bedroom apartment in any state in the country. Minimum wage hikes in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Missouri, and Washington were the result of ballot referendums.

"Minimum wage increases resonate strongly with so many Americans because people feel like they're working harder than ever but have little to show for it," Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), said in a statement. "The American people believe in the value of work—and that workers deserve to be valued. That's why there's such strong support for raising the minimum wage. People believe it's the right thing to do, and they understand it's one of the best ways to lift the incomes of working families who really need that money."

In 2018, Fight for $15 helped lead Amazon workers to a $15 minimum wage, and the movement's advocacy paved the way for Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to announce a $15 wage for her interns.  

The group also secured a $15 minimum wage for University of North Carolina healthcare employees, Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, and all workers in Shelby County, Tennessee.

"These wins prove that all of our organizing and hard work are paying off," the group wrote on its website. "That's the energy we need to take with us into next year. Our voices are being heard, and our movement is stronger than ever. We won't stop until every worker across the country gets the pay they deserve."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

In Telling Slip, George W. Bush Condemns the 'Unjustified and Brutal Invasion of Iraq'

"It's hard to get past the nihilistic evil of killing hundreds of thousands, making millions into refugees, and turning it into stand-up to defuse the awkwardness of your hypocrisy," responded one journalist.

Jake Johnson ·

Green Groups Urge California Gov. Newsom to Close Aging Nuclear Plant on Schedule

"Diablo Canyon is dangerous, dirty, and expensive," a coalition of environmental organizations said in a letter to California's Democratic governor. "It must retire as planned."

Brett Wilkins ·

'After Which Failed Pregnancy Should I Have Been Imprisoned?' Asks Rep. Lucy McBath

The congresswoman highlighted how right-wing attacks on abortion rights could also impact the healthcare available to patients who experience miscarriages and stillbirths.

Jessica Corbett ·

'A Slap in the Face to Voters': Kansas Supreme Court Upholds GOP Map

"This case is only one skirmish in the wholesale assault on democracy in Kansas and around the country," said the head of the state's ACLU.

Jessica Corbett ·

Ahead of House Vote, Analysis Details How Big Oil Price Gouging Rewards Wall Street

"Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to stop profiteering at the pump and secure a more stable, sustainable future for all. It's time to act—before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo