The American middle class has made it clear that they want good jobs that pay enough to make ends meet, and some policymakers have pointed to minimum wage laws as a vehicle for ensuring that even low-income workers are able to earn a sustainable living. Despite some opposition from those who worry that higher labor costs could result in reduced employment, many state and local governments have made recent hikes in their minimum wage. Below, we'll look at some of the biggest moves expected in 2018.
1. New York City fast-food workers: $13.50, up $1.50
One of the biggest minimum wage hikes is tied to a specific industry within the country's most populous city. Those who work in fast-food establishments will get a $1.50 per hour increase, which is technically effective on Dec. 31.
The move was part of a two-year initiative to meet demands for $15 per hour wages. New York City will make the second part of its move on the last day of 2018, helping workers earn that $15 amount in 2019 and beyond.
2. Maine: $10, up $1
Maine residents voted in late 2016 to implement a multi-year rise in the minimum wage. The hourly amount climbed to $9 in 2017, and future moves will take the wage to $11 in 2019 and $12 in 2020.
Interestingly, the governor of the state was opposed to the measure, saying that it would effectively raise prices on consumers, especially the elderly. Lawmakers had also opposed several efforts to pass a law raising the minimum wage, prompting citizens to begin a referendum process that put the measure on the ballot and ultimately getting it passed.
3. Colorado: $10.20, up $0.90
Voters in Colorado were also part of the 2016 election drive to boost the minimum wage. It took an amendment to the state constitution to implement the changes, with 2018's rise being the first of three annual $0.90 per hour increases to take effect through 2020, at which point it will reach the $12 mark.
The margin of victory was relatively slim at 55% to 45%. Many opponents pointed to differences in economic prosperity between major cities like Denver and Boulder and smaller communities scattered across rural areas, arguing that while metropolitan areas see enough traffic for low-wage businesses to be able to afford higher labor costs, businesses in other areas of the state suffer hardship when wages rise this much.
4. Hawaii and Maryland: $10.10, up $0.85
Both Hawaii and Maryland will see their minimum wages rise to $10.10 per hour in 2018. For both states, the move is the last stage of a hike passed in 2014, when the wage was $7.25. Wages have risen incrementally each year in Hawaii and Maryland during that time, finally reaching their target. The higher rate comes into effect on Jan. 1 in Hawaii, but not until July 1 in Maryland.
Legislators in both states have called for additional increases, but efforts to pass changes haven't led to concrete results. In Hawaii, a bill to boost the wage to $15 by 2021 hit hurdles earlier in 2017 and hasn't yet made further progress. A similar bill in Maryland hasn't gotten much traction, but several local areas in the state have passed their own measures, including Baltimore's city council.
5. District of Columbia: $13.25, up $0.75
Workers in the nation's capital will see their minimum wage rise again as of July 1. The $0.75 increase is part of a series of planned boosts that will culminate in D.C. wages hitting $15 per hour in mid-2020.
Minimum wage enforcement is an issue nationwide, but it's been a particularly noteworthy problem in the District. Having secured the minimum wage law, advocates for workers are now turning their attention to raising awareness of employers who routinely violate the wage law and how to hold them accountable.
6. California large employers: $11, up $0.50
Finally, California's minimum wage increase isn't as large as the others on this list, but the state's huge population makes it a key provision. This year's move is part of a multi-year initiative to reach $15 per hour by 2023 for all businesses. Employers with 26 employees or more will have to pay $11 per hour on Jan. 1, while those with 25 or fewer employers will see a $0.50 hike to $10.50 per hour.
Large employers can expect bigger increases in the years to come. Boosts of $1 per hour annually will begin in 2019, hitting the $15 maximum in 2022, while smaller employers will see a $0.50 raise in 2019 before $1 increases start up from 2020 to 2023.
Look at your minimum wage
Workers who earn the minimum wage benefit from even the smallest of pay increases. With dramatic differences from state to state and ongoing debate about the effectiveness of minimum wage changes, you can expect the minimum wage to remain a controversial topic throughout 2018 and beyond.