Congress does not seem too motivated to pass a minimum wage increase anytime soon. This inaction defies public opinion. According to a recent Gallup Poll, over 76% of Americans favor increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9.00/hour.
But all is not lost. When it comes to the minimum wage, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) is not the only game in town. That’s because many states – and even some cities – have their own minimum wage laws. Nothing prevents state and local legislators from increasing the minimum wage under these laws. Put differently – for all you lawyers out there – the FLSA’s minimum wage provisions do not “preempt” state and local laws.
A quick survey of the news reveals that several states are taking important steps to increase the minimum wage. For example, in the first half of 2014, four states – Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Vermont – increased their minimum wage to over $10.00/hour. The State of Washington, meanwhile, just increased its minimum wage to $9.47/hour.
Several cities have taken even more aggressive steps. In June, for example, the Seattle City Council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.00, while the San Diego City Council recently voted to gradually increase its city’s minimum wage to $11.50/hour over the next few years. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just signed an Executive Order that will establish a $13.13/hour minimum wage for an estimated 18,000 workers. These are just a few examples of how local progressives are giving America’s workers a fighting chance.
Many of the Trial Lawyers who read this Newsletter “rub elbows” with state and local officials. If you are such a creature of politics, here’s a question you might ask your friends: “What are you doing to increase the minimum wage?” This is especially true in Pennsylvania and its major cities — Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — where the minimum wage continues to stand at $7.25/hour.