Momentum Behind Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage
For those dedicated to building an economy that works for everyone (us being among them), the effort to raise the minimum wage has emerged as a key battleground. Raising the minimum wage would help the American economy and millions of families. In fact, it has the potential to raise almost 5 million Americans out of poverty.
(Contrary to opponents’ claims, a large body of academic research shows that raising the minimum wage does not result in job losses.)
What’s more, Americans of all stripes are overwhelmingly supportive of this commonsense policy: a recent poll on the low end of support found 72 percent support a minimum wage hike, including 52 percent of Republicans. Another poll out last week found that increasing the minimum wage — and indexing it for inflation — garnered 80 percent support, including 67 percent of Republicans. The Senate will take up the issue soon, but in the meantime momentum has been building in states across the country. Here are a few examples:
- California: A Republican millionaire is making the case for a $12 minimum wage. Governor Jerry Brown (D)recently signed a law raising the minimum wage in California from $8 per hour to $10, but that isn’t enough for Ron Unz, former Republican candidate for office and publisher of The American Conservative. The former software mogul argues that a higher minimum wage would lift millions out of poverty at relatively low cost to consumers, and save taxpayers enormous sums spent on government programs for low-income people.
- Washington: The Governor of the state with the nation’s highest minimum wage says it’s still too low. In his State of the State address this past Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) proposed Washington’s minimum wage, currently the highest in the nation at $9.32 per hour, to between $10.82 and $11.82. “There are tens of thousands of jobs that people depend on that don’t provide a living wage in our state,” he said. “An increase in minimum wage means more money being spent in our economy.”
- Illinois: Republican gubernatorial candidate draws fire in his call for a minimum wage cut, then backs down under pressure. After advocating during a radio interview that he would reduce the Illinois minimum wage from its current level of $8.25 to the federal level of $7.25, candidate for governor Bruce Rauner (R) drew sharp rebuke not only Democrats but also one of his GOP competitors. The next day, Rauner told the Chicago Tribune, “I made a mistake.”
- Maryland: In his State of the State Address, Governor Martin O’Malley (D) backs a higher minimum wage. In the announcement, O’Malley asked the Maryland General Assembly to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. “We all do better when we’re all doing better,” O’Malley said.
- Florida: Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The current minimum wage in Florida is $7.93, just over the federal level of $7.25. Governor Rick Scott (R) responded that the efforts make him “cringe.”
Meanwhile, some of the biggest cities in the country are moving to raise the minimum wage far above their state levels to $15 an hour:
- Seattle: Months after residents in SeaTac voted in favor of a $15 minimum wage, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (D) is pushing for the same, and has created a task force to come up with a plan for raising it to that level within four months.
- Chicago: The Chicago Board of Elections has approved a ballot question that would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. While the vote is an “advisory” one, organizers believe it can build momentum for a higher minimum wage in the city or state.
- Los Angeles: Council members plan to introduce a motion to raise the city’s minimum wage to a nation-leading $15.37 an hour for hotel workers in the city. “We know it will improve lives. We know it will bring folks into the middle class. We know it will bring more money into the local economy,” Councilman Mike Bonin said. Separately, an Economic Roundtable study indicated that raising the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $15 an hour could stimulate the city’s economy enough to create 64,700 jobs
In addition, The District of Columbia and two populous neighboring counties in Maryland all recently passed measures increasing their minimum wage to $11.50 an hour.
BOTTOM LINE: Raising the minimum wage will be good for our nation’s economy, and good for our nation’s families. Nobody who works a full time job should have to live in poverty. Cities and states across the country are not waiting for Congress to act — they are taking action to help their citizens and their economies now.