Working People Wins to Celebrate in 2016

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Let's be honest, 2016 was a heavy year for a lot of us. But as we start a new year, we've taken time to reflect on the pretty amazing things working people accomplished last year.

Working people at Verizon who went on strike last year made huge gains, including getting a raise and adding 1,300 new call center jobs on the East Coast.

People in different jobs and fields of work all over the country ratified contracts and voted to join unions. Here are some highlights, including a Lipton factory, Columbia University graduate student workers, a casino in Las Vegas, United Airlines, Zara and many more.

During the 2016 election, we saw women, and particularly women of color, make some big wins in the U.S. Senate. Thanks to the tireless work of UNITE HERE and other boots-on-the-ground union members, Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina woman elected to the U.S. Senate representing the state of Nevada.

Tammy Duckworth representing Illinois, Kamala Harris representing California and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, round out the group of four new women senators from the Democratic Party.

In North Carolina, Democratic candidate and now-Gov. Roy Cooper unseated Pat McCrory.

At the state and local level, there were many legislative and ballot measure victories to celebrate. Below are some wins worth celebrating:

Transit, Infrastructure and Education Investments

Three states and two localities passed measures to significantly increase transit and infrastructure investment.

California

  • The state passed a measure authorizing $9 billion in bonds for new construction and modernization of public school facilities and community colleges.
  • Legislators defeated a measure that would have made it harder for state or local governments to invest in infrastructure projects or respond to emergencies.
  • The state also passed a 12-year extension of personal income tax increases on individual earnings of more than $250,000, with the revenue used to provide additional funding for K-12 education, community colleges and health care programs.

Illinois

  • Illinois amended the state constitution to require all revenue from gas taxes be used for the Transportation Trust Fund.

New Jersey

  • New Jersey passed a constitutional amendment requiring transportation revenue be spent on transportation projects such as maintaining safe roads.

San Francisco, California

  • San Francisco passed a proposition that would increase the transfer tax on real estate sales of $5 million or more, with some revenues used to pay college tuition for city residents or employees.

Wake County, North Carolina

  • Wake County voters approved a referendum that would enact a 0.5% sales tax to fund public transportation.

Fair Scheduling

One state and three municipalities enacted fair scheduling requirements last year.

  • New Hampshire’s law prohibits retaliation for requesting flexible work schedules.
  • San Jose, California, passed a ballot measure in November that requires certain employers to offer additional work hours to existing qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees or contractors.
  • Emeryville, California, passed a fair scheduling law in October that requires certain retailers and fast food restaurants to provide at least two weeks’ notice of workers’ schedules, with predictability pay provided for schedule changes that occur with less than two weeks’ notice. The law contains other protections as well, including requiring employers to offer additional hours to existing part-time workers before hiring new employees.
  • Seattle passed a fair scheduling law in September that requires large retailers and large fast food and full service restaurants to provide at least two weeks’ notice of schedules, with additional pay provided when workers’ schedules are changed with less than two weeks’ notice and for when workers are scheduled to work within 10 hours of a previous shift. The Seattle law also contains other protections, including requiring employers to offer existing part-time workers additional work hours before hiring new staff.

Minimum Wage (For more information, go to NELP: the latest on the 2016 election, and state and city campaigns; and the EPI Minimum Wage Tracker.)

In 2016, seven states, the District of Columbia and 13 localities approved minimum wage increases through legislation, ballot initiative, administrative decision or executive order.

Arizona

  • Arizonans passed the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act. The measure will raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020, with cost-of-living adjustments to begin in 2021.
  • Voters in Flagstaff voted to boost their minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, with annual indexing starting in 2022. The ordinance also will gradually phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers—prohibiting lower pay for employees who receive gratuities.

California

  • California became the first state to pass a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2022 (for large businesses) and by 2023 for small businesses. Cost-of-living adjustments will begin in 2024.
  • San Jose adopted an increase to $15 per hour by 2019, with annual adjustments after 2019.
  • San Mateo passed a raise to $15 per hour by 2019 for most employers—and by 2021 for non-profits. Annual indexing to inflation will begin in 2021.
  • Pasadena adopted a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour by 2020, with annual adjustments beginning on July 1, 2022.
  • Long Beach passed a $13 per hour minimum wage by 2019 (by 2020 for small employers), with annual cost-of-living increases after 2021. The ordinance also includes an increase to $15 per hour, based on economic conditions.
  • Santa Monica adopted an increase to $15 per hour by 2020 (by 2021 for small employers) and to $15.37 per hour for employees in the hotel industry. Indexing begins in 2022.
  • Palo Alto passed a boost to $15 per hour by 2019, with annual adjustments beginning after 2019.
  • Berkeley adopted an increase to $15 per hour by 2018, with cost-of-living adjustments beginning in October 2019.
  • San Diego voters ratified a minimum wage increase—passed by the City Council in 2014—to $11.50 by 2017, with annual indexing to inflation beginning in 2019.

Colorado

  • Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment to boost the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020, with annual indexing to begin in 2021.

District of Columbia

  • The D.C. Council passed an increase to $15 per hour by 2020—adjustments to inflation begin in 2021.

Florida

  • Miami Beach passed an increase to $13.31 by 2021, with annual indexing beginning in 2022.

Iowa

Three Iowa counties adopted minimum wage increases:

  • Polk County will raise its wage to $10.75 per hour by 2019, with annual adjustments after 2019.
  • Wapello County will see a $10.10 minimum wage by 2019.
  • Linn County will raise its minimum rate to $10.25 per hour by 2019.

Maine

  • Maine voters approved a minimum wage boost to $12 per hour by 2020, with annual indexing to inflation beginning in 2021. The measure also will phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers—raising it to $12 per hour by 2024 and $1 per year after 2024 until it reaches the regular minimum wage.

New York

  • New York became the second state to approve a wage floor increase to $15 per hour by 2019 in New York City and by 2020 in Long Island and Westchester counties. The rest of the state will see a boost to $12.50 per hour by 2020, with a route to $15 in subsequent years. The tipped subminimum wage will increase to $10 per hour in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, and to $8.35 per hour in the rest of the state. (A 2015 administrative decision will increase the minimum wage for fast food workers to $15 per hour by December 2018 in New York City and by July 2021 in the rest of the state.)

Oregon

  • Oregon legislators passed a minimum wage boost by 2022 to $14.75 per hour for the Portland metropolitan area, to $12.50 for rural counties, and to $13.50 for the rest of the state. Annual indexing will begin in July 2023.

Washington

  • Washington voters approved a measure to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2020, with annual indexing beginning in 2021.

Paid Family Leave (For more information, go to A Better Balance.)

In 2016, one state and one city passed paid family leave legislation.

California

  • The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Paid Parental Leave for Bonding with New Child Ordinance, which requires employers to provide up to six weeks of supplemental compensation to employees who are receiving California Paid Family Leave for purposes of bonding with a new child through birth, adoption or foster care placement. During the leave period, the supplemental compensation, coupled with the state paid family leave, must equal 100% of the employee’s gross weekly wage. The ordinance will phase in from 2017 through 2018, depending on employer size.

New York

  • New York became the fourth state to pass paid family leave, which goes into effect in 2018. The strongest family leave law to date, once fully phased in, will provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave for employees welcoming a new child or caring for a seriously ill family member.

Paid Sick Leave/Days (For more information, go to Paid Sick Days.)

In 2016, three states and 11 localities approved paid sick leave/days through legislation or ballot initiative.

Arizona

  • Arizona’s successful minimum wage ballot measure, effective 2017, also requires employers to provide paid sick leave (40 hours per year for large employers and 24 hours per year for small employers).

California

  • Berkeley approved an ordinance, effective 2017, which allows employees to earn up to 48 hours of earned sick leave annually.
  • Los Angeles passed paid sick leave legislation, which went into effect in 2016, which provides up to 48 hours of earned sick leave for employees.
  • San Diego voters’ ratification of the City Council’s Earned Sick Leave-Minimum Wage Ordinance, approved in 2014, cemented the law’s guarantee of up to five earned sick days per year for employees—effective 2016.
  • Santa Monica passed an ordinance, effective 2017, which allows employees to earn up to 32 or 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, depending on employer size.

Illinois

  • Chicago and Cook County approved paid sick leave ordinances, effective 2017, which allow employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.

Minnesota

  • Minneapolis passed a paid sick leave ordinance, effective 2017, which provides up to 48 hours of paid sick leave per year. Employers with fewer than six employees must also provide sick leave, but it may be unpaid leave.
  • St. Paul’s ordinance, effective 2017, requires employers, regardless of size, to provide up to 48 hours of paid sick leave per year.

New Jersey

  • Plainfield and Morristown passed paid sick leave ordinances, which provide up to 24 or 40 hours of earned sick leave, depending on employer size. The Plainfield measure will go into effect in 2017; Morristown has not yet determined the effective date.

Vermont

  • Vermont enacted paid sick leave legislation—effective 2017 for large businesses and 2018 for small businesses.

Washington

  • Washington’s voter-approved minimum wage increase also requires to provide, effective 2018, up to 40 hours of earned paid sick leave per year.
  • Spokane passed a paid sick days ordinance, effective 2017, which provides 24 to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually, depending on employer size.

Voting Rights

Eight states expanded voting rights through legislation or ballot initiative in 2016.

Alaska

  • Alaska voters passed the Permanent Fund Dividend Automatic Voter Registration ballot measure. The passed initiative will automatically register qualified Alaskans to vote when they apply for the PFD, a dividend distributed to Alaskans from taxes on oil revenues.

Florida

  • Florida passed vote-by-mail legislation and expanded the list of forms of identification for voter registration applicants.

Maryland

  • Maryland enacted the Freedom to Vote Act, which will expand electronic voter registration and upgrade the technology required for electronic voter registration, and an early voting law that will increase the number of early voting locations in counties with larger populations.

New Hampshire

  • New Hampshire lawmakers enacted no-fault absentee voting legislation.

Oregon

  • Oregon passed vote-by-mail legislation that ensures public university and community college students receive mail-in ballots at their campus address (if that is their preferred address).

Rhode Island

  • Rhode Island enacted a voter registration modernization law.

Tennessee

  • Tennessee enacted a voter registration modernization law.

Vermont

  • Vermont legislators passed automatic voter registration.

This is not a complete list of all working people wins for 2016. Share your stories with the #WorkingPeopleWins2016 hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.