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$15 minimum wage becomes a reality for 1M New Yorkers

In December, New York City implemented a minimum wage increase that affects more than a million workers, including all fast food workers and more than 25,000 airport employees. The city's minimum wage for these workers increased by $2 per hour to $15 per hour, joining several other major cities where wages have already hit $15 per hour.

Advocates for a livable minimum wage are celebrating the increase, which comes after a six-year fight. "This demand was from the fast-food workers who explained that was the minimum they needed for a decent life," a representative of the National Employment Law Project told the New York Times. The proposal for $15/hour seemed extreme when it was introduced in 2012, but eventually garnered support at the grassroots and government levels.

Is it enough?

Working 40 hours per week, a $15/hour wage adds up to about $2,400 per month, or $28,800 per year. With the average two-bedroom apartment in the metro costing $1,638 per month, minimum wage workers are not out of the woods when it comes to paying bills and providing for their families.

Workers must still be vigilant

While the increased minimum wage is great news for employees, it is only one facet of the ongoing fight for fair pay. Wage laws are useless if they are not enforced, and employers have historically found many ways to skim off the top and steal wages from their workers. These include:

  • Paying less than the minimum wage
  • Denying meal breaks or other legally mandated breaks
  • Failure to pay overtime
  • Withholding tips and wages from tipped workers
  • Requiring employees to perform work off-the-clock
  • Paying the tipped minimum wage for non-tipped work

Workers who suspect their employers are breaking the law or stealing their wages may be entitled to damages, including any stolen wages. To report a wage law violation, employees may contact the Department of Labor or speak with their own employment law attorney.

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