Time to Get Wage Increases Back on the State Ballots

Citizen Wealth Financial Justice National Politics

Chicago Raise the Min Wage RallyLafayette    Looking at the recent elections, SeaTac was the seasoning, but New Jersey was the steak when it comes to overwhelming support of the voters for raising the minimum wages to deal with stagnant pay packages and soaring inequities.   The small Seattle working class suburb of SeaTac next to the airport, passed a huge minimum wage for their community of $15 per hour, almost $6 over the Washington state minimum of $9 and change which is the highest currently in the country, so deservedly got a lot of publicity and attention, and its impact on reportedly 6000 workers is significant.   Nonetheless, the bigger news and longer shadow has to have been the 60-40 mandate given by New Jersey voters to a more modest $1 per hour increase in that state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, which is also a dollar over the federal minimum, and here the impact will be felt by hundreds of thousands of workers.

            Given the total dysfunctional stalemate in Congress, only someone living in Portland, Maine or any of the five Michigan cities that have now legalized marijuana would realistically believe that the federal minimum wage is going to go up anytime soon with midterm elections in 2014.   Perhaps something might happen in the waning days of the Obama Administration as it did in Clinton’s time, but that’s too late, and, you can bet it will be too little.

            New Jersey was luckier in some ways though its accomplishment was huge.  The legislature had attempted to raise the state’s minimum to $8.50, but Republican, and recently re-elected, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the measure.   The legislature stiffened its back and put the $8.25 measure on the state ballot and the voters may have elected Christie with one hand, but they gave him a slapdown with the other on this issue.

            When the legislature doesn’t have the will or wherewithal to put such a matter to the voters, that means going through the arduous process of putting a minimum wage measure, hopefully with indexing to inflation or other increases, on the ballot where that option exists.   Doing so is neither easy nor cheap, but that’s what it takes, as we have learned over and over again in Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and other states.   The benefits are calculated in the billions of increased wages paid and millions of workers and their families who collect the raises.  Even a dollar after all for a fulltime worker means another $2000 a year in wages, and that’s real money.

            There is no way to look at some of the results without understanding that voters are desperate for change and a not just a different approach and candidate, but someone new and ready to fight, which was good news for Bill de Blasio and is bad news for Hillary Clinton.  ACORN can’t drive the wage increase train at the ballot this time, but a lot of people, players, and organizations need to get on track to get it done so the voters can make it happen next in 2014 and 2016 in the general elections.