Of the four states with minimum wage increase measures on their Nov. 8 ballots, a majority of voters appear likely to give their lowest-paid workers a raise following the election. In the state where a minimum wage decrease is on the ballot, however, the outcome is less certain.
Living wage advocates can rejoice in Washington state, where support for Initiative 1433, which not only raises the minimum wage in a series of incremental increases but guarantees paid sick leave for all workers, is supported by between 55 and 62 percent of voters, according to three polls cited by the Everett (Washington) Herald. The initiative would raise the state’s hourly minimum from $9.47 to $13.50 by 2020.
In Arizona, 58.4 percent of likely voters supported Proposition 206 and just 31.6 percent were against the legislation, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from its current level of $8.05 per hour to $10 in 2017 and $12 by 2020, according to a mid-October Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll, which had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.
Maine voters are almost equally likely to mass a minimum wage increase measure, with 57 percent of voters in favor of Question 4 versus 35 percent against, a September Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram poll found. If it passes, Question 4 will steadily increase the states minimum wage from its present $7.50 to $12 by 2020.
A majority of Colorado’s likely voters support a similar measure that would raise the state’s hourly minimum to $9.30 from $8.31 in 2017, according to a September Magellan Strategies survey, which found 55 percent of voters in favor of a hike, compared to 42 percent opposed. Amendment 70 would also increase the minimum wage by 90 cents each year until it hits $12 in 2020.
In a South Dakota referendum, voters will choose on Nov. 8 whether to approve or strike down Senate Bill 177, which would decrease the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18. While it doesn’t appear that there are any major polls tracking support of the law, local politics and demographics may give some indication of the likelihood that the bill will win voters’ approval. Democrats and labor unions—who won a wage increase battle in 2014 with the passage of Measure 18, which hiked the minimum hourly pay from $7.25 to $8.50—are fighting the state’s Senate, House and governor approval of SB 177. But South Dakota is a solidly red state, favoring Republican candidates for president in every election between 2000 and 2012. In the latter election, the Mount Rushmore State chose Republican candidate Mitt Romney over then Democratic candidate Barack Obama by a margin of 18 percentage points.
Workers in the District of Columbia enjoy the highest minimum wage, at $11.50 per hour. California and Massachusetts tie for second place, with $10. Wyoming and Georgia both have minimum wages of $5.15, and are therefore subject to the $7.25 federal minimum, which is effectively used in 21 states, some of which simply have no state minimum.
Advocates for a higher minimum, such as former Democratic primary candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, base their support on the idea that it’s impossible to live—let alone care for a family—with hourly pay in the single digits. Opponents argue that an increase disproportionately affects young people who aren’t in need of a raise, as they’re already receiving financial support from their families, and would suffer a high unemployment rate in the face of a legal wage hike. The opposition’s biggest argument applies to the same people proponents wish to help: employers, they argue, would be unable to afford the higher price of labor and therefore would be forced to lay off workers.