Voters approve higher minimum wage in Nebraska and Washington, DC. Votes still being tallied in Nevada

Activists demonstrate in support of a $15-per-hour minimum wage and tips for restaurant workers in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 8, 2022.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Voters in both Nebraska and the District of Columbia on Tuesday approved higher minimum wages, while the results in a similar Nevada ballot measure are still pending.

In D.C., voters approved Initiative 82, a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers to $16.10 per hour from the current $5.35 per hour by 2027, matching the floor for non-tipped employees.

And Nebraska voters supported Initiative 433, which increases the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, up from $9 per hour, by 2026. The minimum wage will adjust annually based on inflation after 2026. 

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Votes for the Minimum Wage Amendment in Nevada are still being tallied. But if approved, the minimum wage would rise to $12 per hour by 2024, up from $9.50 or $10.50 per hour, depending on health insurance benefits.

Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, said these results align with past state and local efforts, noting that raising the minimum wage is “an extremely popular policy initiative.”

He said it shows there’s demand for increases, even in “very red states or red areas,” pointing to Florida voters approving a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour during the 2020 presidential election. 

40% of workers covered by $15 minimum hourly pay

While President Joe Biden has supported a $15 minimum wage for all workers and signed an executive order for federal employees, the $7.25 federal minimum wage hasn’t changed since July 2009.

It’s been the longest period without a federal minimum wage increase since the law was enacted in 1938, according to a recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute. 

The value of the federal minimum hourly rate has reached its lowest point in 66 years amid soaring prices, based on June inflation data, the analysis found.

But over the past 20 years, many state and local efforts to boost minimum wages have been successful, Zipperer explained. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the $7.25 federal hourly rate, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The organization estimates that roughly 40% of U.S. workers are living in states that already have a $15 minimum wage or will increase to $15 in the near future.  

“That’s a remarkable victory for advocates of low-wage workers, the ‘Fight for 15’ movements and those pursuing improved working conditions for the most vulnerable workers,” he said.

Sophie Tremblay

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