In Washington, there is simply no hope for a minimum-wage increase, despite broad public support for the idea. Senate Republicans have already filibustered a Democratic plan in the upper chamber, and the House Republican majority has vowed not to even consider the policy.
But away from Capitol Hill, there’s evidence of real progress. President Obama raised the minimum wage for federal contractors through his executive authority; states and municipalities continue to act on their own; and even prominent business leaders are stepping up to do what Congress cannot.
Another major retailer in the United States is giving a boost to its base salary, although the size of the increase will vary from state to state. On Thursday morning, the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA announced that it would be adopting a new wage structure which is expected to increase pay for about 50% of its American employees. The change in company policy will take effect on January 1, 2015.
As part of the plan, Ikea intends to “set a minimum for each store based on the cost of living in that particular area” for an average of $10.76 an hour – a 17% increase over current wages.
The $10.76 hourly wage – more than $3 above the current federal minimum – is an average across all of Ikea’s U.S. locations. That said, even in areas where the cost of living is relatively low, workers will still see an increase that will bring the minimum wage above the legal $7.25 minimum.
Ikea’s announcement comes just four months after Gap Inc. announced it would raise its minimum wage to $9 this year – and $10 next year – across all of its outlets and affiliated brands.
What’s more, we learned this week that Gap’s decision is already working to the company’s benefit: “Gap Inc.’s pay pledge has gotten the attention of job seekers. After announcing plans in February to increase hourly wages to $10 by 2015, employment applications at the Gap and Old Navy chains have surged by at least 10 percent from a year earlier, the San Francisco company said Tuesday.”
Meanwhile, states are also moving forward, no longer willing to wait on congressional Republicans who will not budge.
Just in recent months, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont have approved minimum-wage increases, and the though the political circumstances are very different, even Michigan has agreed to do the same.
And proponents aren’t close to being done.