Campaigns like 15Now and Fight for $15 are bucking convention and demanding minimum-wage hikes far larger than what has been past practice. Take, for example, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007—one of the larger sets of increases in the federal minimum. This Act raised the federal wage floor by 40% in three steps: from $5.15 to $5.85 in 2007, $5.85 to $6.55 in 2008, and $6.55 to today’s minimum of $7.25 in 2009. A $15 minimum wage, on the other hand, represents a more-than-100% increase in the federal minimum. The result? The fight for $15 has decisively changed the terms of today’s minimum-wage debate.
The ball got rolling in 2013 with the breakthrough $15 minimum ordinance in SeaTac, a suburb of Seattle, Wash. Since then, some of the country’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have followed suit, passing their own citywide $15 minimums. In June 2015, Massachusetts passed a statewide measure covering Medicaid-funded homecare aides. Later in the fall, New York State passed a $15 minimum wage law for fast-food workers. This sea change seems to have occurred over just the past couple of years, dramatically pivoting away from President Obama’s soft pitches to raise the federal minimum to $9.00 in 2013 and, more recently, to $10.10 in 2015.