It will be a happy New Year indeed for millions of the lowest-paid U.S. workers. Nineteen states, including New York and California, 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, $10 in its downstate suburbs and $9.70 elsewhere.

“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.” READ MORE