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Nineteen states set to raise minimum wage

By DAVID KLEPPER Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- It will be a happy New Year indeed for millions of the lowest-paid U.S. workers. Nineteen states, not including Kentucky, will ring in the year with an increase in the minimum wage.

Massachusetts and Washington state will have the highest new minimum wages in the country, at $11 per hour.

California will raise its wage to $10.50 for businesses with 26 or more employees. New York state is taking a regional approach, with the wage rising to $11 in New York City, to $10.50 for small businesses in the city, $10 in its downstate suburbs and $9.70 elsewhere. Some specific businesses -- fast-food restaurants and the smallest New York City businesses -- will have slightly different wage requirements.

"This $1.50 increase, I cannot even comprehend or tell you how important this will be," said Alvin Major, a New York City fast-food worker. The 51-year-old father of four helped lead the fight for the increase in his state, one of several successful efforts by fast-food workers and other low wage workers around the country. "The price of food has gone up. Rent has gone up. Everything has gone up. ... This will make a difference for so many people."

Voters in Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Washington approved increases in this year's election. Seven other states, Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota, are automatically raising the wage based on indexing. The other states seeing increases are Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont.

In Arizona, the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry filed a lawsuit challenging the increase, which will raise the minimum wage from $8.05 to $10. On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court refused to temporarily block the raise.

Workers and labor advocates argue the increases will help low-wage workers now barely making ends meet and boost the economy by giving some consumers more money to spend. But many business owners opposed the higher wages, saying they would lead to higher prices and greater automation.

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