AP News Guide: Developments in push toward $15 minimum wage

AP News
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Posted: Jul 23, 2015 6:03 AM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The federal minimum wage has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009, but labor unions and anti-poverty advocates are pushing a rate more than twice that amount as the new standard needed to afford hourly earners a decent living.

The movement to make $15-per-hour the mandatory minimum over the next several years has seen success in a number of cities, and is starting to spill over to statehouses and public universities.

On Wednesday, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced the 10-campus system would pay its employees that much by late 2017, while a New York wage board backed an eventual $15 an hour for the state's 150,000 fast-food workers. A full-time worker would make $31,000 a year.

Here's a look at where things stand around the country:

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THE OTHER WASHINGTON

Voters in SeaTac, Washington, population 27,875, made their suburban Seattle city the nation's first with a $15-per-hour wage floor in November 2013.

The Seattle City Council followed the next June, approving a phased-in approach that will take the minimum wage large businesses must pay from $11 this year to $15 in 2017 or 2018.

In notoriously expensive California, San Francisco and Los Angeles have set the same benchmark, while Sacramento and Berkeley officials are studying the issue.

Whether this remains a West Coast trend could rely on what happens in New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed gradually raising the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Activists in the nation's capital, where the minimum stands at $10.50, also are working to put a $15-an-hour minimum wage on next year's municipal ballot.

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WHAT'S UP WITH THE STATES?

Twenty-nine states have minimum wages that are higher than the one the federal government requires. They range from Washington's high of $9.47, to $7.50 in Arkansas, Maine and New Mexico, according to the National Employment Law Project.

The way things stand now, California is set to take the lead next year at $10 and Massachusetts in 2017 with $11.

That could change as the $15 model gains traction. Legislation to incrementally get to that rate, either for all workers or just the fast-food industry, or seeking smaller hikes, was introduced in in nine states this year: California, Delaware, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington.

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HIGHER EDUCATION, HIGHER PAY

The University of California system is the nation's first public university to embrace the $15-an-hour wage that has become the rallying cry of many labor groups.

UC's lowest-paid workers will earn a minimum of $13 starting in October and $1 raises in the next two years.

The University of Washington, which enrolls about 54,000 students at three campuses, initially argued that as a state agency, it was exempt from Seattle's new wage law.

The university eventually agreed to pay its workers the $11-an-hour base rate that took effect in April under the city's phased-in approach. But it has not yet committed to the $15-an-hour minimum that large Seattle employers must institute in 2017.

The Indiana University and University of Tennessee systems are in states where the mandatory minimum pay is tied to the $7.25-per-hour federal minimum wage, but both have instituted higher wage policies for their entry-level workers — $8.25 an hour and $9.50 an hour respectively.

Duquesne University, a private Catholic school in Pittsburgh, increased the minimum wage for its workers to $16 an hour July 1.

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WHAT ABOUT THE FEDS?

President Barack Obama called on Congress to boost the federal minimum wage to $9 in 2013 and came back a year later to say it should be $10.

Whether it should be raised, when and to what are likely to remain sparring points for the candidates vying to replace Obama after the 2016 presidential election.

Vice President Joe Biden set the stage Wednesday when he said the federal hourly base wage should grow to at least $12. Biden made the comments while visiting Bobrick Washroom Equipment in Los Angeles, where he chatted with employees as they assembled soap dispensers.

The business has been in LA for more than 100 years, and its CEO backed the recent city ordinance that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years.

Biden was joined by Los Angeles County lawmakers, who a day earlier voted to move toward making the county's minimum wage $15 per hour.