Last night voters ushered in major changes to minimum wage paychecks across the country. Low-income workers in four states–Alaska, Nebraska, Arkansas, and South Dakota–will see their wages increase, but remain under $10 an hour. Two Californian cities–San Francisco and Oakland–will make even more aggressive changes, raising the minimum wage to $15 and $12 an hour respectively.
Despite the fact that the midterm election swept more fiscal conservatives into office, voting to increase the minimum wage kept up with what now appears to be a two-year trend. Since 2013, a total of 17 states have decided to raise the least amount an employer can legally pay an employee. The news also follows months of steady protesting from workers at some of America’s most profitable low-wage enterprises: Walmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Domino’s Pizza, and Target, included.
Some 14% of people who receive food assistance are already working at least one job to feed themselves and their families. Much of the reason why is because despite incremental increases in the federal minimum wage, the real value of minimum wage paychecks (taking inflation into account) has fallen 30% over the last four decades. Poverty wages effectively shift responsibility to taxpayers–whether it be for food or healthcare–to pick up the slack.
Despite the gap, major retailers like Walmart regularly oppose minimum wage increases, fighting to sweep such initiatives off the table in cities like Washington, D.C. And yet, hardly any single news event drew more attention to the reality of America’s working poor when, in 2013, a Cleveland Walmart offered up a donation box in which shoppers could throw in canned goods for its employees.
According to the National Employment Law Project, some 601,000 working Americans will see their paychecks increase as a result of Tuesday’s voting. San Francisco now joins Seattle as the second city with the highest minimum wage in the country.