Employers are looking to raise hourly wages faster than states

On Thursday, February 25, 2021, activists from Our Revolution hold $ 15 minimum wage plaques outside the Capitol building to urge Congress to pass the $ 15 federal minimum wage increase proposed as part of the Covid bailout bill.

Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

California’s largest businesses will be required to pay workers a minimum of $ 15 an hour in January.

This is an important milestone that fast food workers have been trying to achieve since 2012. But anti-poverty activists are not satisfied. Citing the high cost of living in the state and rising inflation, they push for more.

Activist and investor Joe Sunberg is funding an effort to collect enough signatures in California to push a vote in front of voters in the November elections. Sunberg, who talked about running for president, wants the state’s minimum wage to reach $ 18 an hour by 2026 for all businesses.

“We were the leaders in pushing the $ 15 minimum wage, but now we have to move forward and further. It’s overdue for $ 18, ”Sunberg said. told the Los Angeles Times.

Next year, 26 U.S. states and Washington will raise the minimum wage, but in California and parts of New York alone, the hourly wage will be at least $ 15, according to report from experts Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory US

However, many workers will see more substantial wage increases because their employers have chosen to raise the minimum wage themselves.

The limited labor market has led many companies, from banks to retailers to pizzerias, to raise wages for hourly workers to attract and retain staff. This year, for the first time, average wages in restaurants and supermarkets have surpassed $ 15 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the 12 months ended September 2021, wages rose 4.2%, according to BLS.

Other employers have already surpassed the $ 15 mark. Amazon has been paying its employees at least $ 15 an hour since 2018 and began offering new hires an average of $ 18 an hour in September. In October, Costco raised the minimum wage to $ 17 an hour. The staff at the Hobby Lobby craft store will be earning at least $ 18.50 an hour starting January 1st. T-Mobile pays its 75,000 people at least $ 20 an hour. And Bank of America has pledged to pay hourly workers $ 25 an hour by 2025.

“This is a job seeker market, which means the competition to retain and find the best talent is competitive – and as a great employer, we love it,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote in a letter to employees announcing the pay increase. … December 10.

The pandemic has also led to new awareness and appreciation for hourly workers and their low wages. Dishwashers in restaurants and grocery store cashiers were considered essential and often received bonuses for their work during quarantine, helping to provide consumers stranded at home with basic necessities. Higher unemployment benefits also shed light on how low wages many low-paid workers receive, with many investing unemployment checks higher than their old wages.

Proponents of poverty alleviation are also starting to push for wages to rise above $ 15 an hour, citing inflation and the cost of basic needs. Inflation surged 6.8% in November, the highest since 1982, and wages at the grocery store or gas station are flat. Real average hourly wages adjusted for inflation and average workweeks in November fell 1.9% year-on-year. Whether higher wages are the driving force behind current inflation is controversial among economists.

“It is now generally accepted that $ 15 is the minimum required for workers anywhere. $ 15 has always been the minimum wage, not the ceiling – and workers will continue to demand wage increases from lawmakers and employers to keep pace with rising living costs and ensuring every community prosper, “Allin Umel, campaign director, told CNBC in a statement. The $ 15 Struggle and the Union.

However, some of the nation’s largest private employers have starting wages that lag behind the $ 15 mark. For example, Walmart earlier this year raised workers’ wages to a minimum of $ 12 an hour, up from the $ 11 set in 2018. However, according to the seller, his average wage in the United States rose to $ 16.40.

Companies are planning wage increases next year to stay competitive, a sign that the labor market will not bounce back even after unemployment fell to 4.2% in November. Walgreens Boots Alliance aims to hit $ 15 an hour by November 2022, while the owner of Olive Garden Darden Restaurants announced earlier in December that it is speeding up its plans to raise wages to $ 12 an hour, including tips.

And while more than half of the US states are increasing wages in 2022, 20 states have set minimum wages at the federal minimum wage of $ 7.25 an hour. Most of these states have elected Republicans as their current governors and have a lower cost of living than states that have increased minimum wages.

Earlier this year, Democrats tried to raise the federal minimum wage by amending the COVID-19 stimulus bill, but that failed. The federal minimum wage since 2009 is $ 7.25 an hour.

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