San Francisco Votes $15 Minimum Wage; Votes in 4 States Advance Wages

Clare O’Connor Forbes Staff, Forbes Magazine

11/05/2014 @ 8:52AM

Low-wage retail and fast food workers can claim a second victory in a fight for a $15 minimum wage that has resulted in strikes, protests and arrests over the last two years.

On Tuesday, San Francisco voters approved a minimum wage of $15 across the city, joining Seattle, which raised its pay to the same sum in June. As in Seattle, San Francisco workers will see their wage increase incrementally. By next May, it’ll hit $12.25, climbing to $13 in 2016. By 2018, it’ll be $15, meaning a full-time minimum wage worker in the liberal California city can expect to make $31,000 a year.

Minimum wage also got a boost in four traditionally Republican states following Tuesday’s midterm elections, with voters approving ballot measures in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

In Alaska, low-wage workers will see their hourly pay boosted to $9.75 by 2016 (the federal minimum remains $7.25). In Arkansas, that number will be $8.50, while Nebraska voters approved a new hourly salary of $9. South Dakota workers will see their wage upped to $8.50 next year.

These red state wage hikes follow a campaign by President Obama to see the federal minimum raised to $10.10 per hour. The bill died on the Senate floor in April.

Some large retail chains, however, have taken it upon themselves to raise the hourly pay for their workers. Gap GPS -0.93% Inc. — the parent company of the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy — surprised retail watchers and the general public alike by announcing a new $10 minimum wage back in February.

President Obama thanked the Gap by stopping at a New York outpost the following month to buy sweaters for Michelle and his daughters.

Workers at big box giant Walmart continue to advocate for a salary boost of their own. In October, 42 low-wage retail workers and their allies were arrested outside Walmart heiress Alice Walton’s Manhattan apartment building while protesting for $15 per hour pay.

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