States Move on Minimum Wage

While Republicans in Congress balk, 19 states have enacted a minimum wage higher than the federal level.

President Barack Obama’s proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage by 24 percent faces long odds in Congress, where Republicans took aim at it minutes after the State of the Union address. That might not matter: beyond Capitol Hill, some states took action long ago.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already require employers to pay more than the $7.25 an hour required by federal law, according to the U.S. Labor Department. At least eight more, including New York and New Jersey, are considering legislation to join them. On Jan. 1, Washington state, home to the highest minimum wage in the nation, raised its floor to $9.19, more than the $9 an hour proposed by Obama.

Higher Price

“It’s the law of demand,” said William Dunkelberg, chief economist at the National Federation of Independent Business, a lobbying group for small employers. “The higher the price of anything, the less will be taken. That applies to labor.”

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