Political Bullsh!t

2021 was not a great one

But there’s not a whole lot of other news, because after a string of years with big minimum wage wins at the state level, maybe not just the low-hanging fruit but the medium-hanging fruit has been picked. After all, since the last time the Congress raised the federal minimum wage, states like Arkansas and West Virginia and Nebraska and Florida have raised their minimum wages, whether by ballot measures or through the state legislatures. 

At this point, 30 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal level, with 18 states and Washington, D.C., having indexed their minimum wages to inflation so that they’ll continue rising without further legislation. Workers in that latter group of states should therefore be seeing the minimum wage rise at the beginning of 2022, along with workers in states where previously passed step increases will be going into effect (there’s some overlap between those groups of states). That means that, while 2021 was not a good year for new increases, 2022 will see the results of past years’ work playing out.

“On January 1, 2022 (December 31, 2021 for workers in New York), the minimum wage will increase in 21 states and 35 cities and counties. In 33 of those jurisdictions, the wage floor will reach or exceed $15 per hour for some or all employers,” according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project. “Later in 2022, four additional states and 22 local jurisdictions will also lift their wage floors—17 of them to $15 or more. By the end of 2022, 49 jurisdictions (two states and 47cities and counties) will meet or exceed a $15 minimum wage for some or all employers.”

But Congress will not act, thanks to the opposition of every Republican and a handful of Democrats. Congress will not act as the worth of the federal minimum wage erodes year by year, as the minimum wage falls short of what’s needed to rent an apartment in every single state, and as the voters of even conservative states show that raising the minimum wage is a popular move. 

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