Cities, States Move on Minimum Wage, Sick Leave

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By Chris Opfer

Aug. 18 — Faced with federal gridlock, cities and states are taking the lead on employment initiatives such as raising minimum wages and securing paid sick leave for workers, the White House said in a report issued Aug. 18.

A total of 17 states and the District of Columbia have hiked their minimum wage levels since President Barack Obama called on local governments to raise pay floors in his 2013 State of the Union address, according to the report. Another 17 cities and counties have implemented paid sick leave policies since January 2014.

The moves come as Democratic-backed bills to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $12 per hour from the $7.25 current rate (H.R. 2150, S. 1150), and to require most employers to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave per year (H.R. 932, S. 497) remain unlikely to move in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Opponents of a wage hike say it will force employers to cut jobs, and many lawmakers have argued against other employer mandates on similar grounds.

“While Congress has stood in the way of addressing these issues, mayors and governors of both parties are working with the President to make progress,” the White House said in the report.

Obama, Companies Also Take Action

Supporters of wage increases and paid leave initiatives said they are hoping that state and local experiments will prove the naysayers wrong.

Rhode Island became the latest state to increase its minimum wage when Gov. Gina M. Raimondo (D) in June signed legislation raising the pay floor to $9.60 per hour. Meanwhile, cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle are set to phase in a $15 minimum wage in the coming years.

Obama has also looked to raise wages at the federal level, signing an executive order that requires contractors to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour (EO 13,658). He's also considering a separate order mandating at least seven days of paid sick leave for contractors' employees.

Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Md., are among the localities that have recently enacted paid sick leave laws. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) earlier this summer signed legislation requiring most employers to offer 40 hours of paid sick time annually.

The White House also noted that a number of companies are acting on their own to increase minimum wages and expand paid leave opportunities. Microsoft Corp. and Netflix Inc. recently announced separate plans to give more time off to workers who are new parents.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at

Text of the White House report is available at