Minimum Wages Matter

ACORN Community Organizing Ideas and Issues

New Orleans  We do not screen calls in any of our offices. We are a membership organization and the membership can never think that there is a chance that they would not be allowed to talk to anyone when they are calling.

I got a call yesterday out of the blue from Roger Davidson. Roger, as he asked me to call him, had some suggestions and advice for me. He said he lived in the sticks somewhere in Maryland almost equidistant from Baltimore, Wilmington, and Philadelphia. There were a couple of things on his mind, but the one we spent the most time discussing had to do with the political problems of winning “living wages” versus minimum wages. Roger wanted ACORN to figure out how to step it up to a higher level. He had read a lot of bloggers and others on these subjects and thought we needed to move in that direction. Roger found the polling and economics I shared with him that lay behind our strategy very sobering, but that’s not the point I want to make here.

The point is that you still have to raise the floor higher regardless, especially if you ever want to start approaching real living wage numbers that are family sustaining. The numbers alone should tell the story as well, because minimum wages in fact matter.

Let’s look at the numbers of workers that were affected by our work around raising minimum wages in 2006.

How many workers were affected by the seven legislative increases we helped win this year?
* Albuquerque 43,000
* Arkansas 127,000
* Pennsylvania 754,000
* Michigan 500,000
* North Carolina 300,000
* Massachusetts 315,000
* California 1,400,000
The total is significant and it comes to a bell ringing 3,400,000 workers!

How many workers were affected by the four ballot initiatives we brought to the voters successfully in November?
* Missouri 256,000
* Colorado 138,000
* Arizona 345,000
* Ohio 720,000
The totals here is around 1,500,000 workers give or take a couple. Remember we got 5,000,000 votes to pass these initiatives, so it is not a simple matter of people “voting themselves a raise” as our opponents always say. Even if everyone who would benefit did vote (which of course they didn’t), it still meant that we needed neighbors, co-workers, and fair minded citizens in huge numbers to agree that this was right and fair, and then vote with us, which they did.

The grand total from both of these efforts is around 4,900,000 workers. Tell me that doesn’t matter!

We had to raise about $6,000,000 for these efforts. It was hard to do it, but you have to wonder why? When it comes to the beneficiaries it comes to a little more than $1.20 per person to leverage wage gains that in the least cases will be more than $2000 for full-time workers!

This is how it works, Roger, and believe me, it’s worth it!

States where ACORN has won minimum wage victories.