Citywide Minimum wage

Building on the success of the living wage movement, cities searching for ways to help the working poor have begun to enact broad new laws to raise the minimum wage at the local level. Unlike living wage laws, which only cover businesses that receive contracts or public subsidies from cities, these citywide minimum wage laws are more comprehensive in that they cover most or all employers in a city. The minimum wage levels under these laws are often higher than the state and federal minimum wages.

NELP works with local coalitions to develop citywide minimum wage laws by providing legal support and technical assistance. Our policy brief, Citywide Minimum Wage Laws: A New Policy Tool for Local Governments, provides more background on these new laws, comparing them to other wage legislation and summarizing emerging research findings on their economic impact.

Economic Impact

Researchers have studied the effects of citywide minimum wages on local economies. The findings have been largely promising for both low-wage workers and the business climate:

  • University of California researchers studied San Francisco's restaurant industry in 2007 and found that the city's minimum wage improved low-wage workers' earnings without slowing employment growth.

  • University of New Mexico researchers found in 2006 that even after Santa Fe's citywide minimum wage increase, the city sustained relatively strong growth in sectors that employ predominantly low-wage workers, including accommodations and food services. 

Past Projects

  • Santa Fe enacted one of the nation's first citywide minimum wage laws in 2003 with legal assistance from NELP staff. We then defended the law against a legal challenge and won a landmark ruling confirming that municipalities have the authority to establish minimum wages that are higher than the federal and state levels. The Santa Fe Minimum Wage, now $9.50 an hour, was expanded in 2007 to cover most of the city's businesses.

  • NELP staff also supported similar campaigns in San Francisco, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Paul Sonn, psonn@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

Darin L. Dalmat, Bringing Economic Justice Closer to Home: The Legal Viability of Local Minimum Wage Laws Under Home Rule, 39 Columbia Journal of Law & Social Problems 93 (2005).

Economic Policy Institute: Minimum Wage Issue Guide

Raise the Wage Kansas

Santa Fe Living Wage Network

University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute

UC Berkeley Labor Center