Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Protesters demanding higher wages and unionization for fast food workers block traffic near Times Square on Sept. 4, 2014 in New York City.
In his 2014 state of the union address, President Obama kicked off what could unofficially be dubbed the Year of the Minimum Wage. Just a year earlier, he had called for a $9 federal minimum, but there he was in early 2014, saying workers should earn at least $10.10 an hour. The shift shows how coordinated campaigns for higher wages, which started with fast-food workers and spread more broadly, raised expectations of what’s considered fair compensation.
Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum may have gone unanswered, but states and cities picked up the torch. In 2014, 13 states passed legislation or initiatives to raise the wage floor, not just in Democratic strongholds but in red states as well. Now the results of those campaigns are starting to come to fruition nationwide. About 4.4 million people will see their pay go up for the new year, according to an analysis of census data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which supports higher minimum pay.
EPI’s data show that more than 750,000 workers earn the minimum wage in the 13 states that passed new raises in 2014. About two-thirds of those workers will see their wages go up on Jan. 1, and the rest will see their pay increase later in 2015. EPI estimates that in those 13...