Fight for $15: Four Years, $62 Billion

November 29, 2016 marks the fourth anniversary of the Fight for $15 movement, which began in New York City in 2012 when fast-food workers walked off their jobs demanding $15 an hour and union rights. Since then, through national strikes, protests and other action, the Fight for $15 has helped spur a wave of minimum wage increases by state and local governments and by individual employers—and made income inequality and flagging paychecks one of the nation’s top economic issues.

In this brief, we quantify the scale of the higher wages that the Fight for $15 movement has helped deliver to date. We find the following:

  • Since the Fight for $15 launched in 2012, low-wage workers have won $61.5 billion in annual raises through a combination of state and local minimum wage increases, together with action by employers to raise their companies’ minimum pay scales. This figure represents the total additional annual income workers will receive once these approved increases fully phase in.
  • To put these wage gains in context, this $61.5 billion raise delivered by the Fight for $15 to workers in just a handful of states is more than 10 times larger than the total raise received by workers in all 50 states under Congress’s last federal minimum wage increase, approved in 2007.
  • Of the $61.5 billion in additional income, 66 percent is the result of landmark $15 minimum wage laws that the Fight for $15 won in California, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, SeaTac and Washington, D.C. over the past few years.
  • A total of 19 million workers across the nation will benefit from these raises sparked by the Fight for $15.
  • 2.1 million of those workers won raises this month when voters approved minimum wage ballot initiatives in Arizona ($12 by 2020), Colorado ($12 by 2020), Maine ($12 by 2020), Washington State ($13.50 by 2020), and Flagstaff, AZ ($15 by 2021) in the November 2016 elections.

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