During his State of the Union address, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour. Some Congressional Democrats have called to increase it all the way up to $10.10 (getting it close to the buying power it had in the 1960s).
But at the state level, conservative lawmakers are trying to go in the opposite direction. According to the National Employment Law Project, lawmakers in 31 states have introduced 105 bills aimed at suppressing workers’ wages, with a little help from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative group that provides model legislation on everything from union-busting to voter disenfranchisement:
Since January 2011, legislators from 31 states have introduced 105 bills reflecting ALEC’s “model” legislation designed to suppress the wages of low-paid workers in the United States — these bills aimed to repeal state minimum wage laws, reduce minimum wage rates for youth and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation policies, and prevent local governments from establishing living wage ordinances. Of these 105 bills, 67 were directly sponsored or co-‐sponsored by ALEC-‐affiliated legislators from 25 different states. […]
While only 11 of the 67 ALEC-affiliated wage suppression bills were ultimately passed into law, the cumulative impact of the 105 bills that have been introduced over the past two years remains significant. The persistent introduction of legislation to weaken or repeal wage standards drains the political momentum behind improving wages and workplace standards for low-paid workers by forcing a defensive fight over protecting the standards that already exist. As retail and fast-food workers in New York, Chicago, and cities across the country take collective action to improve wages in the nation’s fastest-growing low-wage industries — and as dozens of legislatures consider new proposals to increase minimum wages this year — ALEC’s wage suppression agenda serves as a significant source of inertia undermining the current push for better wages and workplace standards.
The minimum wage already isn’t enough for families to get by, while wage theft is a rampant problem across the country. Chicago, in fact, recently passed one of the nation’s strongest laws protecting workers against wage theft. But ALEC and its conservative allies wants to make it easier to steal money from workers’ pockets, while making it harder for them to get a raise.