Minimum Wage Increase: Some Want Voters To Decide On Midterm Ballot

 @LauraMatt
on April 02 2014 9:01 PM
Minimum Wage US NY 2013 Getty
Employees and supporters demonstrate outside of Wendy's and Burger King fast-food restaurants to demand higher pay and the right to form a union on Aug. 29, 2013, in New York City. Getty Images

Despite no public support from Republicans, Senate Democrats could, in coming days, vote on a long-shot minimum wage bill to increase the current $7.25 per hour federal rate to $10.10 by 2016.

A compromise with Republicans is necessary to block opposition. But while Democratic lawmakers are appearing, at least for now, firm on the $10.10 figure, President Barack Obama is already applauding states that have taken the initiative to meet those goals.

Raising the federal minimum wage is an election talking point for Democrats. But some states are going even further just in case Congress meets another dead end: They are planning to put the issue to voters on the November ballot. Such is the case in Republican-controlled Michigan, where Obama gave a speech in support of a minimum wage increase on Wednesday. No doubt it's a movement he wouldn’t mind gaining more traction.

“Raising the minimum wage is not going to solve all of our economic challenges,” Obama said in his speech in Ann Arbor. “Nobody who works full time should be raising their family in poverty. If you are working, are responsible, you should be able to pay the bills.”

Weeks ago, the president urged states to bypass Congress on the minimum wage. Now the Raise Michigan coalition is out to collect 300,000 signatures from registered voters by May 28 to get issue on the ballot.

“Raise Michigan believes if you work full-time, and do your job well, then you shouldn't live in poverty. It’s that simple,” its website reads. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to reach a middle class life and provide a secure living for their families. We believe enough is enough, and things need to change. It's time to rebuild an economy that works for us all!”

In Arkansas, where the state’s $6.25 per hour minimum is among the lowest in the nation, proponents want voters to decide. Similar initiatives are under way in D.C., Seattle, and Idaho to name a few.

And how is the issue playing out across the country? The National Conference of State Legislatures shows that:

-- As of March 31, 38 states were considering minimum wage bills;

-- 34 states are actually considering increasing the minimum wage;

-- Some states like Connecticut, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia already have enacted increases this year;

-- 21 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than $7.25;

-- Some states (19 to be exact) and territories have minimum wages equal to the federal government’s;

-- Four states have minimum wages lower than the federal level;

-- New Hampshire repealed its minimum wage nearly three years ago, leaving reference to the federal figure; and

-- Five states haven’t established a state minimum wage. [Find the rest of the data here.]

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