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NEW YORK — The successful efforts to phase in a $15-per-hour minimum wage in New York and California is prompting activists to shift their efforts to other more liberal, Democratic-led states.
"Fight for $15" efforts are active in Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington, reported The Associated Press. Such a wage increase will face more obstacles in conservative and rural states in the South and Midwest, but activists believe the movement is picking up steam.
In addition, some economic experts who oppose the increase acknowledge there is pressure to boost the minimum wage, according to the report.
"In the beginning, it looked impossible," said Alvin Major, leader of the Fight for $15 campaign and a fast-food worker. "What happened in New York, in California, it's going to spread around the country."
Since the movement launched in 2012 when fast-food workers went on strike in New York City, cities like Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco have agreed to increase their minimum wages to $15 per hour in the coming year. Portland, Ore., will reach $14.75 per hour.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have called for federal minimum wage increases to $15 and $12 per hour, respectively. President Barack Obama has supported a general increase.
New York and California will have the highest state minimum wages when they reach $15 per hour. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure that will take the state's minimum wage from the current $10 to $15 by 2022. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislators have agreed to gradually increase the minimum wage from $9 to $15 by the end of 2021 in New York City, but only to $12.50 by 2020 in upstate New York, with further increases to $15 based on inflation and other economic indicators.
A minimum wage of $15 per hour may be seen as fair in areas with a high cost of living, but "it's a much harder lift in low-wage areas," Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, told the AP.
California and New York also have politically influential unions, strong community organizing activity, and supportive Democratic politicians, which is not the case in many states, the news report added.