Human Resources News & Insights

Dems don’t get the votes — but minimum wage hikes and paid sick leave do

The Democrats may have lost the war during the midterm elections, but they did manage wins in two key battles. Those battles were for a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave. 

Minimum wage hikes in 4 more states

On Tuesday voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota all said “yes” to increasing their states’ minimum wages over the next few years.

That means, in total, 16 states and the District of Columbia have moved in the past two years to increase their minimum wages.

San Francisco also got into the act, as voters approved a measure that would increase the city’s minimum wage drastically to $15 by 2018, up from the current minimum of $10.74. The city’s essentially mirroring what Seattle did back in June, when it passed a similar increase to its minimum to $15.

In addition, Illinois voters approved a nonbinding measure stating they’d like to see their state’s minimum wage boosted to $10.

These wage hikes come on the heels of the Department of Labor increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 starting in 2015, and tying future increases to inflation.

Members of Congress — particularly Democrats — have tried to get a similar hike passed for the federal minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.25. Those efforts, however, have been met by much opposition.

But what’s interesting about the results in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota is that those are Republican-leaning states, which may send a signal to the Grand Old Party that its constituents would like to see more movement from the it on the federal minimum wage issue.

4 wins for paid sick leave, too

As for paid sick leave, voters in one state and three cities passed measures to give workers paid sick days to recover from illnesses or take care of ill family members.

Massachusetts became the third state — joining Connecticut and California — to adopt state-wide paid leave requirements.

And it was joined by voters in Trenton and Montclair New Jersey, and Oakland, CA. That makes a total of 16 cities — including Seattle, New York City, and Washington, D.C. — that have passed similar measures.

Members of Congress have also tried to move forward legislation that would create a national paid sick leave requirement that would closely mirror the Family Medical Leave Act in its administration. But the bill, the Healthy Families Act, which was introduced by two Democrats, has failed to gain traction as well.

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