Amazon will pay all workers at least $15 an hour, the company announced on Tuesday. The wage increase will take effect on November 1 and will apply to both regular full-time employees as well as temps and seasonal workers – a plus for the thousands of people the online retail giant usually brings on to staff its warehouses around the holidays.
The move comes following criticism that Amazon’s workers are underpaid and overworked, and was widely interpreted as an attempt to improve its reputation. The company also said it would lobby to increase the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
The rising minimum wage
Amazon is hardly the only company to boost wages for its lowest-paid workers. Target and Walmart have made similar moves. And many cities and states have passed legislation in recent years to increase the minimum wage.
In 2008, most states had a minimum wage between $6.55 (then the federal minimum wage) and $7.25, according to the Labor Law Center. Only one state – Washington — had a minimum wage above $8 an hour.
In the following decade, the minimum wage went up in all states, in many cases because of an increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour that took effect in 2009. But some states took it much further, pushing wages above $10 an hour.
The 10 states with the biggest minimum wage increases
Workers in these 10 states have seen the biggest bump in the minimum wage in the past decade:
- Washington, D.C.: The minimum wage increased by $5.70, from $7.55 an hour in 2008 to $13.25 an hour in 2018. It will rise to $15 an hour by 2020.
- Arizona: Minimum wage in Arizona jumped by $3.60 in the past decade, from $6.90 to $10.50 an hour.
- Minnesota: Minnesota started out 2008 with a $6.15 hourly minimum wage, before the 2008 federal minimum wage increase took effect in July of that year. By 2018, that had grown to $9.65 an hour, a $3.50 increase.
- Washington: The minimum wage in Washington State went from $8.07 in 2008 to $11.50 in 2018, a $3.43 increase. The state has the highest minimum wage in the U.S.
- New York: The minimum wage in New York grew by $3.25 an hour, from $7.15 to $10.40 between 2008 and 2018. But employers in New York City with more than 11 workers must pay $13 an hour, and $15 an hour beginning December 31, 2018.
- California: California had one of the highest state minimum wages in 2008, and it still does today. The minimum wage grew by $3, from $8 to $11. Several California cities mandate a higher minimum wage.
- Massachusetts: Like California, Massachusetts increased its minimum wage from $8 to $11 an hour in the past decade.
- Colorado: The minimum wage in Colorado has grown $3.18 in the past decade. From $7.02 an hour to $10.20 an hour.
- Maryland: Minimum wage went from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, a $2.85 increase.
- Vermont: In 2008, Vermont workers earned a minimum of $7.68 an hour. That increased by $2.82 by 2018, to $10.50.
Where the minimum wage isn’t budging
Despite calls from many quarters for a higher minimum wage, lawmakers in many states aren’t budging. In 22 states, the state minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour. In some of those states, lawmakers have also adopted laws that prohibit cities or counties from passing their own minimum wage increases.
Critics of minimum wage increases often argue that boosting worker pay can backfire, causing employers to hire fewer workers or cut employee hours. Proponents say the increases are necessary to help Americans who are struggling to get by on wages that haven’t kept pace with increases in the cost of living. Studies on the actual effects of raising wages have yielded conflicting data, as Bloomberg noted.
Whatever the economic impact, minimum wage increases are popular with Americans. Fifty-two percent of voters surveyed by Pew Research in 2017 said they were in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Support for the change was strongest among Democrats, blacks and Hispanics, and those who earned less than $30,000 a year. But even 22% of Trump voters and 48% of people who earn more than $75,000 a year agree that America’s lowest-paid workers deserve a raise.
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