Minimum wage issues often cause corporations, companies, and other commercial interests concern in the absence of clarity and answers to, “What if…” questions.
The past year saw minimum wage activity
across all planes of American government, included the states and local
government. This is an issue of concern to scrap recyclers particularly in at a
time that their industry is particularly economically pressed.
state legislative sessions saw substantial increases in state and local
activity surrounding the minimum wage. In some states, bills were introduced to
restrict their localities’ ability to increase minimum wages on their own or
otherwise impose local employer mandates. Despite this preemptive legislation,
some major localities passed landmark minimum wage regulations.
national presidential primaries raged on earlier this year, particularly with
the Democratic candidates, the minimum wage debate came front and center. This
national attention has helped bolster support for the movement at the state
level. After a relatively inactive 2015, roughly 200 minimum wage bills and 12
ballot measures were introduced in 40 states this year.
Several populous states hiked minimum wages this year. Most notably, in April,
California passed CA S.B. 3, which will increase the minimum wage from $10 to $15 per hour by
2022. Also in April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed NY S.B. 6406 as part of the state budget that will
increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by December 31, 2018 in “downstate” New
York counties and New York City. In “upstate” New York counties the minimum
wage will be gradually increased to $12.50 by 2021. Here, the minimum wage
varies not only by geographic region but also employer size. More recently, the
New Jersey legislature passed NJ S.B. 15, increasing the minimum wage from $8.38 to $15 by 2021. However,
at this writing, according to news reports, Gov. Chris Christie (R) will likely veto
states, however, public support for raising the minimum wage met strong
Republican opposition, generating perhaps predictable conflicts between
Republican-led state legislatures and Democratic-controlled cities. As we
previously reported in Scrap Policy &
Advocacy News, the Alabama legislature passed AL H.B 174 in March, which prohibits local governments from imposing minimum
wage requirements on private employers. The legislation was a direct response
to an ordinance passed by the Birmingham City Council in February, which would
have increased the minimum wage to $10.10. The Alabama law effectively blocked
the council’s attempt. More recently, Idaho has also adopted legislation
prohibiting political subdivisions from raising the minimum wage above the
state limit of $7.25.
A few state
legislators went in the opposite direction and introduced bills that
specifically upheld a locality’s ability to pass its own minimum wage
regulations, such as NJ A.B. 2581 and NY A.B. 5835. In a different tactic, North Carolina
introduced a resolution asking the general assembly to consider a bill allowing cities and counties to adopt local minimum wage regulations.
Cities Get in on the Action
In 2014, Seattle became the first major city
to pass an ordinance increasing the local minimum wage to $15 per hour. A year later, San Francisco and Los Angeles joined suit and passed similar ordinances.
Recently, several other major cities have taken steps to increase their minimum
wage beyond the state-specified rate. On June 27, 2016, Washington, DC Mayor
Bowser (D) signed a law that will
gradually increase the district’s minimum wage until it hits $15 per hour in
2020. Following these actions, the neighboring Maryland suburb of Montgomery
County also introduced a local ordinance supporting a $15 minimum wage. The bill
replaces similar local legislation that went into effect in 2014 that will
raise the Montgomery County minimum wage by annual increases to $11.50 by 2017.
Both pieces of legislation exceed the state rate outlined in the Maryland Minimum Wage Act of 2014, which calls for the minimum wage to be raised ultimately to $10.10 per hour by July of 2018. In April, the Baltimore
City Council also introduced a $15 minimum wage proposal. So far, the state legislature has not shown any interest
in enforcing against either piece of local legislation in Maryland.
Cleveland, local unions and grassroots organizations gathered enough support to
compel the city council to introduce legislation for a $15 per hour minimum wage. In contrast to proposals in other cities, which provide for gradual increase over a 5 to 7 year period, the
Cleveland proposal would impose the $15 requirement on any business with more
than 25 employees beginning in January 2017. As a result, many in Cleveland’s
business community are staunchly opposed to the bill. However, it seems that
business owners might not have to worry about the proposal this year. According
to news reports, the wage proposal will likely not appear on
the November ballot because of city deadlines for ballot proposals. If the
proposal has to wait until next year, it will be interesting to see how
Governor Kasich (R) and other Ohio lawmakers respond, as Ohio did not introduce
any preemptive legislation this session.
with preemption laws already in place, some city councils have defiantly voted
to raise the minimum wage. Earlier this month, Miami Beach’s City Commission
unanimously voted to create a minimum wagelaw. Miami Beach is the first Florida city
to set a local minimum rate higher than the state rate of $8.05. The new local
legislation will increase wages to $13.31 by 2021 and is direct challenge to
the state's preemption law. According to the Miami Herald, Miami
Beach’s legal department is arguing Florida’s preemption legislation is
unconstitutional because of an amendment to Florida’s constitution passed in
2004 that seems to open the door for local governments to create their own wage
states that have already raised the minimum wage, localities are still pushing
for faster increases. For example, in California, Santa Clara County began
exploring the possibility of increasing the county wide minimum wage to $15 by 2019, almost one year before
Governor Brown (R) approved increasing California’s minimum wage to $15 by
2022. Initially, there were concerns that local advocates would abandon
previous efforts after the state legislation passed. However, representatives
from the county’s Cities Associations endorsed a regional $15 wage by 2019 at
the June 10 meeting. The next step would be for the county council to formally
introduce a bill.
will no doubt continue to be a contentious issue in the coming months. Now that
many states have adjourned for the year, the focus for many advocacy groups
will most likely turn even more to localities. In 2016, wage hike campaigns
have experienced unprecedented success in the Washington, DC Metro Area as well
as in major cities like New York and Miami Beach. The outcome of the Miami
Beach ordinance may determine whether activist groups choose to expand their
local campaigns to more Republican states with restrictive local wage laws.
does all this mean for the scrap recycling industry? One thing is for certain,
arguments that the industry cannot afford increasing the minimum wage in these
tough economic times will not suffice. In fact, the trend seems to support the
notion that the worse the economy, the more emboldened local and state
government feel to raise the minimum wage.
ISRI members need to remain vigilant and engaged as policymakers review
the status quo and consider changes that will have significant impacts on company
operations and expenses. In this case, as in most, having a good offense by
being proactive is your best defense. Stated another way, as we often say at
ISRI, “If you’re not at the take, you’re on the menu.” You need to know your
local and state officials before the debate comes to your locale. Contact ISRI
to learn how your trade association can help.