2017 is already starting off with a right direction as nearly half of the states in the country will be introducing higher minimum wages for millions of people.

A total of 19 states have taken the necessary steps to increase the minimum wage for hourly employees beginning on Jan. 1. This is a long overdue change given that the national minimum wage has remained at $7.25 since 2009, which is well below a living wage.

According to CBS News, Massachusetts and Washington state have the highest minimum wage rates in the country at $11 per hour. California is close behind with $10 and New York state is experimenting with having higher wages in New York City – at $11 – and $10 in local suburbs and $9.70 everywhere else.

“The price of food has gone up. Rent has gone up. Everything has gone up. … This will make a difference for so many people,” said Alvin Major, a 51-year-old New York City fast-food worker.

CBS News reports that Arizona, Maine, Colorado and Washington voted to raise the wages in the latest election. Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio and South Dakota are automatically raising wages. Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Vermont are also increasing their wages.

Some of these states plan to gradually reach wages as high as $12 to $15 per hour. This widespread increase in wages comes after workers across the country have been protesting for just that, showing that their organizing has had results.

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