New York, California and 17 other states are increasing the minimum wage for employees for the new year, which will increase wages for millions of the lowest paid workers. If President Obama had succeeded in adjusting the FLSA overtime pay requirement for inflation, 2016 would have been a remarkable year for the working class.
For some states, these wage increases will be followed up with additional increases annually as the states move toward $15 an hour. For others, the increase is a cost of living adjustment (the minimum wage in these states is tied to an index). A few (Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Washington) are the result of voters ballots in the November election.
If businesses do not comply with higher wages for the lowest paid, they will be subject to wage and hour class action lawsuits from workers seeking backpay and possible enforcement actions by the state governments.
There has been an intense battle in the media about whether these wage increases will result in lifting workers out of poverty or plunge them into further poverty as their jobs are automated and they are laid off. The former president and CEO of McDonald’s wrote an opinion piece in Forbes that blamed the company’s self-service kiosks on the Fight for $15 movement. We will just have to wait and see who is right.
Pennsylvania is not one of the states where the wage will increase. The current minimum wage in PA is still $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum.
President Obama’s administration was unable to push through an increase in overtime pay for millions of workers, as the Department of Labor adopted new regulations but a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction in November to halt them. The Trump Administration is expected to roll back the changes and allow the injunction to stand. However, because many businesses overhauled their payroll system and informed employees of the changes well in advance of the court order, and then didn’t rollback the changes, it could be considered a limited success nevertheless.
As a candidate on the minimum wage, Donald Trump has been all over the map. This Washington Post article sums it up. He isn’t expected to be a friend to the working class, though I believe Trump himself would take issue with that statement. Progress will hopefully continue in individual states even if nothing happens on the federal level. Workers will also continue to have wage theft lawsuits under the Fair Labor Standards Act or the state equivalent as an option when employers don’t comply with labor laws.