2018 would have been a good year for the minimum wage if politicians hadn’t kept getting in the way

The federal minimum wage was still $7.25 an hour in 2018, stuck at that level since 2009. Thanks, Republicans! But things kept getting better in many states, with four raising their minimum wages in 2018, and previously passed increases continuing to take effect in many other states.

There were two real down notes, too, though. In Michigan, Republicans kept a minimum wage initiative off the ballot by passing an increase … and then gutting it after the elections. Michigan’s minimum wage is on its way to $12.05 an hour. In 2030. Michigan Republicans also screwed over tipped workers, who would have gotten to the full minimum wage under the proposed ballot initiative but will top out at $4.58 an hour under the new Republican law.

Republicans weren’t the only lawmakers circumventing the will of the voters on minimum wage, though. In Washington, D.C., voters passed a measure to bring tipped workers up to the full minimum wage, only to have the city council repeal that law. It’s totally outrageous, and we can’t blame it on Republicans.

But. Arkansas and Missouri voters passed increases to $11 in 2021 and $12 in 2023, respectively. Delaware legislators voted to raise their state’s minimum all the way from $8.25 to $9.25 in late 2019. There it stops, though, which means that blue Delaware on the expensive East Coast is going to stay behind low-cost-of-living Arkansas.

Massachusetts, which had an $11 minimum wage in 2018, passed a bill raising it to $15 over five years. That wasn’t all good, though, since the tipped-worker rate will only get to 45 percent of the full rate, and in exchange, time and a half for Sunday and holiday work will be phased out.

The minimum wage will also go up, whether because it’s indexed to inflation or because an earlier increase is being phased in in steps, in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey—where Gov. Phil Murphy says a major increase to $15 is a priority—New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington.

There’s still work to be done.


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