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Why More Than 5 Million American Workers Will Have Greater Spending Power in 2019

As the new year kicks off, roughly 5.3 million American workers will be flexing a little extra spending power. On Jan. 1, 20 states from Alaska to Washington are set to raise their minimum wages, pushing affected year-round workers’ annual pay up by an average of $90 to $1,300, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The increases come as a result of changing policies across the country. In Alaska, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont, Ohio and South Dakota, the minimum wage is adjusted each year to reflect inflation from the previous year. In California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island, the increases reflect new minimum wage levels set by state legislatures. Wage hikes in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Missouri and Washington, meanwhile, are the result of ballot measures approved directly by voters in those states. California, Maine, New York and Massachusetts will see the largest wage bumps overall.

Twenty-four cities and counties across the U.S. will also roll out minimum wage increases. In New York, for example, businesses with 11 or more employees will start paying their workers at least $15 an hour on Jan. 1. “New York continues to set a national example in the fight for economic justice,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement yesterday following the announcement of the wage bump, from the current $13. “We believe in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and are proud to be stepping up for hardworking families and making a real difference in the lives of New Yorkers. We won’t stop until every New Yorker is paid the fair wages they deserve.”

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And with Democrats set to take control of the House of Representatives in 2019, fair-pay advocates are gearing up for a national fight to raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn’t budged in more than nine years. It was last increased in July 2009, when it was set at $7.25 an hour, which translates to about $6.19 today when taking inflation into account. According to the National Employment Law Project, cost-of-living data shows that in all 50 states, workers will soon need $15 an hour or more simply to afford basic living expenses.

“Here in the U.S. and around the world, we are seeing that politicians who ignore working people’s demand for economic fairness do so at their own peril,” said Christine Owens, NELP’s executive director. “That’s an important message for members of Congress to hear. It’s time they follow the lead of the states and cities. It’s time to raise the wage.”

Individual companies are also stepping up to champion the cause. E-commerce giant Amazon made headlines in October with the announcement that it was raising its minimum wage to $15 for all employees across the U.S. The hike, which went into effect on Nov. 1, impacts more than 250,000 full-time, part-time and temporary employees.

“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do and decided we want to lead,” founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.” The company also said its public policy team would work with congressional members to push for a higher federal minimum wage.

Competitor Target recently bumped its minimum hourly pay to $12 and committed to raising that number to $15 by 2020.

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