State Minimum Wage

As the value of the federal minimum wage has steeply eroded, many states have taken the important step of establishing a higher state minimum wage. In the process, states not only boost wages for working families who are struggling to get by, but they also play a key role in building momentum to increase the federal minimum wage. States that have a higher cost of living will continue to have a role in establishing higher state minimum wages than the federal floor, too.

NELP has a long history of supporting grassroots campaigns to raise state minimum wages. We work with coalitions of community organizations, worker centers, advocacy organizations, and labor unions to raise the minimum wage in states across the country - either through legislative campaigns or by putting the issue to voters through statewide ballot initiatives.

In each state, NELP helps design policies that not only raise the minimum wage, but that also provide other key reforms to protect workers in low-wage industries: closing loopholes that exclude companion care workers and some farmworkers from minimum wage protections; raising the minimum wage that employers must pay tipped workers, regardless of how much they earn in tips; and providing automatic annual cost-of-living increases to protect the minimum wage from erosion in the future. Each state that adopts these reforms helps to set precedent for these innovations at the federal level.

Past Projects

NELP staff supported successful ballot initiative campaigns in 2004 and 2006 that gave voters the opportunity to raise the minimum wage, raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, and enact automatic annual cost-of-living increases in eight states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio. In all, 62% of voters in these states supported the minimum wage initiatives, including 76% and 73% in Missouri and Montana, respectively. More than 1.5 million workers got a raise due to the 2006 ballot initiatives alone. NELP staff also worked to defend these victories when they were challenged.

NELP has also supported numerous successful legislative campaigns to raise the minimum wage in states ranging from New York and Michigan to Arkansas and New Mexico.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Paul Sonn,

Other key resources:


Economic Policy Institute: Minimum Wage Issue Guide

Let Justice Roll

Jobs with Justice

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United