Several years ago, a $15-an-hour minimum wage was the pipe dream of a national coalition of striking fast-food workers.
Now, it’s increasingly becoming a reality across the country, with significant gains expected in 2020.
The number of cities and counties with at least a $15 pay floor is set to double next year to 32, as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and South San Francisco, along with about a dozen other California cities, adopt the benchmark, according to a report by the National Employment Law Project provided exclusively to USA TODAY. They’ll join cities such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco that are already members of the $15 club.
More broadly, 24 states and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages in 2020 – a record 72 jurisdictions, the worker advocacy group’s study says. Most will occur on or about Jan. 1.
“They’re feeling they can’t rely on the federal government to raise wages, so they’re doing it on their own,” says Yanett Lathrop, a researcher and policy analyst for NELP.
In Kansas City, Missouri, Milly Hobbs, 28, earns $9 an hour working full-time at McDonald’s, an amount she says forces her to share a three-bedroom apartment with five relatives and friends, including her mother. She says she spends about $20 a week on groceries, allowing her just one meal a day, and makes do with one pair of socks and two pairs of tattered pants. Her cellphone was recently turned off for nonpayment. And she doesn’t have the money to replace her one-armed eyeglass frames.
“It’s been very difficult,” she says. “And this time of year it’s even more stressful.”
A relatively small 45-cent increase in her hourly pay to $9.45 starting Jan. 1 should help her buy new frames, pay her phone bill and start saving toward a car purchase.
“Every little bit helps,” she says. “It’s a start, but it’s not enough to live on.”