States pass pro-worker initiatives

The lowest-paid hourly workers in four states — Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington, who total about 21.6 million — have won a gradual boost in the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour by 2020. The pay rate will then be adjusted annually based on the state’s cost of living or the rate of inflation. Voters in South Dakota vetoed a referendum that would have lowered the minimum wage for non-tipped workers under 18 from $8.55 to $7.50.

Low-wage workers in Arizona will see their wages rise from $8.05 an hour to $10 in 2017. Those in Colorado, who presently make $8.31, will see a raise to $9.39 in 2017 and an increase of 90 cents a year thereafter. In Maine, the $7.50 minimum will rise to $9 next year, followed by $1 a year thereafter.

Washington voters approved the largest increase. The state’s current $9.47 will rise to $13.50 by 2020, with a jump to $11 next year. The initiative also approved paid sick leave for more than 1 million of the lowest-wage workers.

Meanwhile, workers in 21 states are still paid the $7.50-an-hour federal minimum wage, outrageously below the poverty rate.

Virginians voted down an initiative that would have made the state’s long-standing right-to-work (for less) status permanent in the state constitution.

Seattle voters approved health and safety rules for women hotel workers, mostly Latina and African-American. Hotels must now provide housekeepers with panic buttons, track guests accused of harassment, limit housekeeper workloads, help workers pay for health care and retain workers during ownership transfers.

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