Act Your Wage
Half of the country's lowest-earning workers will get a raise in 2021. Exactly 25 of America's 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., voted to increase their minimum wages this past election. Many states have already instituted minimum wages higher than the federal minimum, but 20 still use the national standard of $7.25 an hour as the lowest pay allowed by law.
The minimum wage emerged in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which revolutionized the workplace, gave rise to the middle class, and remains the foundation of U.S. labor law. The minimum wage was always controversial and political — who should get it, who shouldn't, how much it should be — and, practically speaking, the way it's administered doesn't make much sense: It's a flat rate that doesn't consider regional differences in the cost of living, even though $7.25 goes much further in Buffalo, New York, for example, than just a few hours south in New York City. It also doesn't adjust for inflation over time, so the only way it can increase is through dragged-out political negotiations that leave the lowest-earning workers with little relief. A dozen presidents have raised the minimum wage 22 different times.