Ten years ago next week, 200 fast-food workers walked out at 20 New York City restaurants, demanding $15 an hour in pay. At the time, many observers scoffed at $15 as an absurd, pie-in-the-sky demand. As the movement’s anniversary approaches, the Fight for $15 movement has proven the naysayers wrong.
Congress has failed to increase the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. But across the country, states and companies have raised wages in the wake of Fight for $15’s efforts. While, for many, $15 an hour is still too low, the increases have been especially important in the current era of rising inflation.
Twelve states and Washington DC have adopted a $15 minimum hourly wage, although in many states it’s being phased in. Even deep-red Nebraska has embraced a $15 minimum, while Hawaii has approved an impressive $18 minimum to be phased in between now and 2028.
“The movement’s success is inspirational,” said Yannet Lathrop, a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project. “It has helped 26 million workers across the US win $150bn per year in additional pay. Its impact for workers of color is significant. About 12 million workers of color have benefited and their additional earnings are $76bn a year.” For workers whose wages rose, this means an average raise of roughly $6,000 a year.