STATE HOUSE – When fast-food workers first demanded a $15 minimum wage in 2012, the average two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island cost $925 per month. Today, the average two-bedroom apartment costs $1,453 per month, while the state’s minimum wage isn’t slated to reach $15 per hour until 2025.
To Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), that is too little, too late. He is sponsoring a bill (2023-H 6078) that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $20 per hour by Jan. 1, 2028. The rate would then adjust automatically each January based on inflation.
“With the increasing cost of rents, health care and food, our minimum wage is far from a living wage. Now more than ever, working people and families are struggling just to make ends meet, regardless of whether they live in the urban core or a rural community,” said Representative Morales. “So even after we reach a $15 minimum wage in 2025, thousands of working people and families will still be left behind. This is why it’s critical we raise wages toward $20 and start indexing it to inflation each year thereafter. Working people deserve the reassurance that their wages will increase every year to reflect the increased cost of living, because regardless of what anyone says, the minimum wage deserves to be a living wage!”
A 2021 law raised the state’s minimum wage to $12.25 in 2022 and $13.00 in 2023, with increases to $14 per hour scheduled for Jan. 1, 2024 and to $15 per hour scheduled for Jan. 1, 2025.
Representative Morales’ bill would keep the increase scheduled for 2024 but raise the rate to $15.50 in 2025, $17 in 2026, $18.50 in 2027 and $20 in 2028. Future increases would be based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U), a commonly used inflation measure.
Eight states and dozens of municipalities around the country index their minimum wage to the CPI.
“We are proud of the work we’ve done to increase the minimum wage in Rhode Island. But with the cost of everything from child care to housing rising, working families are still being squeezed, and we need to make sure the minimum wage keeps pace,” said Zack Mezera, Rhode Island organizing director for the Working Families Party.
The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Committee on Labor today.