The minimum wage in 25 states across the United States will increase in 2021. Most of the wage hikes took effect on Jan. 1. Unfortunately for many local workers, the minimum wage remains stagnant. Pennsylvania's minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Likewise, there is no increase in the minimum wage scheduled for West Virginia, which is currently $8.75. Ohio workers will see a slight increase in the minimum wage from $8.70 to $8.80 this year.
While the federal minimum wage hasn’t recorded an increase in more than a decade, the 2020 election brings new hope for workers. President-elect Biden has pledged to boost minimum wage to $15 an hour. He has also said he would index minimum wage to match inflation consistent with a bill passed by the House of Representatives in 2019. Proponents argue increases will put much-needed money into the hands of the lowest-paid workers, many of whom struggle with high and ever-increasing costs of living. But opponents of raising the minimum wage say the result could be fewer jobs. If employers have to pay their workers $15 an hour, they'll hire less workers, the reasoning goes. Whether Biden will get the chance to raise the minimum wage will likely come down to runoff election results in Georgia, where both Senate seats are up for grabs on Jan. 5.
There’s growing evidence voters on both sides of the political aisle support a $15 minimum wage. In November, Florida became the eighth state to choose to phase in a pay floor at that rate over time, thanks to a ballot referendum approved by 60 percent of voters in an election won there by President Trump. Even if a new federal minimum wage doesn’t get passed, it’s likely that more states will follow Florida’s example.
More companies have also stepped up to raise their internal pay floors to keep up with competition and help with turnover. Bank of America, Amazon and Target are among the employers that have already started paying their workers $15 an hour or more. Starbucks will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next three years. Walmart, the country’s largest private employer, raised its hourly rate for deli and bakery workers from $11 to $15, while hourly leadership roles now receive $18 to $21 per hour.
It is certainly good to see some of America’s most successful companies identify with common workers and provide a living wage for more folks. Hopefully, others will follow their lead as 2021 needs to be a more prosperous year in America.