What is a fair pay in the U.S., and how do we update this? - december 16, 2015

The minimum wage: what is a fair pay? It is a hot topic worldwide, especially in the U.S., where the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009. Since Congress, with a Republican majority, has refused to take action on President Obama's proposed minimum wage raises - first $9 and later $10.10 per hour - workers, democratic politicians and even businesses owners are stepping in to increase their own local minimum wage. 

That might need some explanation for those not familiar with the U.S. minimum wage system. Here is a short overview: besides a federal minimum wage, all 52 U.S. states can have their own minimum wage rates, modelled like the federal minimum wage with special rates for tipped workers, minors, students, interns, disabled workers or professions, e.g. federal contractors, health care aides, cheerleaders and so on.

More than half of the 52 states have raised their minimum wages above federal level, and six states will raise their rate above $10 over the coming years, as proposed by President Obama. Washington D.C. has the highest rate of $10.50 and will raise it to $11.50 in 2016.

Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are raising the bar even higher, passing legalisation to raise the minimum wage to $15, although in most places this transition will take place over the coming five to seven years. Only Portland in Oregon has a minimum wage of $15 already.

Governors and mayors who like to speed up the whole process sign executive orders to bypass legislation votes. President Obama started this when he signed an executive order to give federal contractors a $10.10 minimum wage. The governors of New York and Kentucky followed his example and raised the minimum wage of their state workers. On a city level the same happened, with the mayors of five big cities - Chicago, New York City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Philadelphia signing executive orders to raise the minimum wage, varying from  $12.50 to $15, phased in over a couple of years.

Out on the street there is a lot of movement as well. Many workers are fighting for higher minimum wages. The recent New York fast-food workers' fight for a $15 wage was successful. They will earn it phased in by 2021. Seatac airport workers in Washington earn that wage already and cheerleaders in California were this year recognised as minimum wage workers after a long fight. Companies have stepped in as well. McDonalds, Ikea, Facebook and many more companies have raised their minimum wages.

Despite these successes, there are still 21 states with a minimum wage on the federal level of $7.25 and even two states with a rate lower than that. Why? There are a lot of theories about what increased wages mean for America’s economy and workers. There’s apparently so much misinformation on the subject that the U.S. Department of Labor even has a “mythbusting” page.

So, how to update the minimum wage rates on the U.S. WageIndicator: Paywizard.org? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 19,354 "incorporated places" in the U.S.: counties, cities and towns. It is not do-able to track all these local governmental sites, besides most of these sites are a bit slow with their updates. So it comes down to keeping a thorough track on the U.S. minimum wages news, next to specialised labour law sites, like Lexocology.com to make sure that Paywizard.org can give the hundreds of annual minimum wage updates.