Seattle redefined the minimum wage this week when its city council unanimously approved raising the local rate to $15 an hour, the highest in the nation and more than double the federal floor. That reflects another win for a growing national movement by low-wage workers pushing for higher pay and increased benefits. Seven states and the District of Columbia have refused to wait for a recalcitrant Congress to take action and raised their local minimum wages this year. While this is a positive step, the federal minimum wage should be raised for the first time in nearly five years so all of the nation's workers can benefit.
In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Congress has refused to budge, leaving cities and states to act. In Seattle, the wage increase will be phased in gradually, with different tracks for different-sized businesses. The unanimous vote from the nine-member council comes after months of discussion on how to address income inequality in the nation's fastest growing city.
Florida has the second-largest number of people working for minimum wage, with only Texas having more. The state's minimum wage is $7.93, which is 68 cents above the federal rate. It's also indexed, meaning the rate is adjusted annually to reflect inflation. That is helpful, but not helpful enough for workers struggling to make ends meet.
Once again, Washington is gridlocked and leaving it to states and cities to act in the best interests of their residents. It's time for Congress to act and raise the minimum wage.