President Obama on Dec. 4 voiced his support for a Senate bill that would increase the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. House Republicans oppose it, saying it will kill jobs, so the measure is unlikely to pass between now and the 2014 elections.
However, half of Americans already live in states and locales with higher minimum wages than the federal rate of $7.25.
In all, 21 states and numerous counties and municipalities set their minimum-wage rates higher than the federal amount. California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all raised their rates in 2013. More than 120 cities have living-wage ordinances that require paying more than $7.25 per hour.
In 2013, 34 state legislatures considered bills to raise their minimum wages.
In the expensive—and wealthy—Washington, D.C., region, a wage war has broken out. Two counties in the neighboring Maryland suburbs just voted to raise minimum wages to $11.50 per hour by 2017. The District of Columbia, reluctant to be a low-wage island, is poised to follow suit. And Maryland’s legislature is preparing to jump on the higher minimum-wage bandwagon when its 2014 session begins.
About 3.6 million Americans are minimum-wage workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.