With a bump in Washington’s minimum wage to $9.19 an hour today, high school student Miranda Olson will edge closer to her goal of buying that black Volkswagen Beetle she’s been researching online.
Olson is only able to pick up part-time hours, working after classes and weekends. But the extra pennies she’ll earn in 2013 will add up over the coming weeks and months.
“It’s not much, but it’s something,” said Olson, 16, who works at Wagner’s European Bakery and Cafe in Olympia. “Every bit helps.”
Many workers around the country won’t be as lucky as the ones in Washington state, which is raising its salary minimum even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country.
Ohio also raises its minimum wage today, up 15 cents to $7.85. The Ohio Department of Commerce also says the new minimum for tipped employees will be $3.93 — an increase of 8 cents an hour.
Automatic minimum-wage increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up salaries in some states, even through the recession, expanding the pay gap between areas that make annual adjustments and those that don’t. Of the 10 states that will increase the minimum wage today, nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation.
Rhode Island lawmakers approved that state’s wage increase this past year.
Paul Sonn, legal co- director at the National Employment Law Project, said he hopes more states will start looking at automatic adjustments as the economy recovers. He said the model — which Washington state first adopted in 1998 — helps avoid sudden jolts as states try to catch up to their peers.
The automatic adjustments aren’t much. Washington’s bump of 15 cents will mean those who work 40-hour weeks will earn an extra $6 per week or about $300 per year.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to get a pay increase with the wage adjustments that begin New Year’s Day. Along with Washington, Ohio and Rhode Island, the changes also will occur in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, and Vermont.
Between the nine states with automatic adjustments happening this year, the average minimum wage is $8.12 per hour, up from a little under $8. States that do not have automatic changes operate with an average minimum wage of about $7.40 — a difference of about $1,500 per year for a full-time worker.
Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, either because they’ve tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.
San Francisco has set the highest minimum wage and will have workers paid at least $10.55 an hour in 2013.
Groups such as the National Restaurant Association oppose further increases in federal or state minimum wages, arguing that it’s an ineffective way to reduce poverty and forces business owners to cut hours, raise prices or lay off workers.