President Obama recently called on Congress to "give America a raise" by increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
How does this affect you?
Nearly two-thirds of the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. are female, so more than 15 million women would get a salary bump under the federal proposal. "This is an issue that is critical for both women's economic security and fair pay," says Julie Vogtman, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center.
But change is unlikely at the federal level, as many Republicans oppose the increase, citing lost jobs. (Business groups say that raising the minimum wage will force employers to lay off employees they can no longer afford to pay; many economists disagree, arguing that a raise will encourage Americans to consume more, which, in turn, will create jobs.) The real action is happening on a state-by-state basis: Minimum-wage workers in at least 17 states and the District of Columbia will see their paychecks increase this year either because of recently passed laws or because their wages are set to increase with inflation. An additional eight states will consider pay hikes later in 2014. Most of the new laws start with an initial increase of 50 cents to $1, and steadily increase over the next few years. New York, for example, raised its wage from $7.25 to $8 on December 31, but the wage won't max out until the end of 2015, when it will reach $9. In Washington, D.C., the minimum wage will rise to $11.50 by 2016— surpassing the federal proposal, which is also the case in San Francisco and counties in Maryland and New Mexico.