Why 7 Million American Workers Will Kick Off the New Year With Bigger Paychecks

Christmas may be over, but nearly 7 million American workers still have another gift coming their way. At the start of the new year, 24 states and 48 cities and counties across the U.S. will raise their minimum wages.

In total, workers affected by the increases will earn an extra $8.2 billion over the course of 2020 as a result of the changes, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Those who work year-round will see their annual pay bump up between $150 and $1,700, on average, depending on the size of the minimum wage increase where they live. The increases range from a $0.10 inflation adjustment in Florida to $1.50 per hour raises in New Mexico and Washington.

The wage hikes will inch a number of states closer to the $15 minimum wage championed by the Fight for $15 movement, which kicked off in 2012 when a coalition of workers from chains including McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s walked off their jobs in New York City to strike for higher wages. Other similar strikes followed across the country.

The cause won increasing support among Democrats in Washington, D.C. In July, the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in a 231–199 vote that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. However, the Senate has not taken up the bill for debate.

Critics have argued that minimum wage hikes would hurt small businesses and negatively impact job growth and job creation. Analysis from the Congressional Budget Office found that increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would benefit up to 27 million workers, but 1.3 million people would lose their jobs.

Some companies are not waiting for the government to take action on the issue. Amazon, for instance, raised its minimum wage to $15 in November 2018, and company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has been very outspoken in his frustration that other retailers have not followed Amazon’s move. In an annual letter to shareholders released in April, Bezos challenged his company’s competitors, writing: “Match our employee benefits and our $15 minimum wage. Do it. Better yet, go to $16 and throw the gauntlet back at us. It’s a kind of competition that will benefit everyone.”

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