Between 1997 and 2007, as the Republican-controlled Congress continued to vote down minimum wage increases, political activists were not to be stymied. With increasing frequency, they turned to their state and local governments, and had growing success.
Consequently, in the decade of federal inaction, there was significant movement among state governments. Many raised their own minimum wages to new highs, while others adopted minimum wage laws for the first time. All this rivaled the flurry of action in 1912-1923, as not only were new laws passed, but the issue was kept before the public. By January of 2007, 30 states and the District of Columbia had pushed their own minimum wage levels above what Congress required employers to pay.
At the same time, minimum wage advocates sought and obtained socalled “living wage” ordinances from local governments. These measures usually applied only to firms with government contracts, but the prescribed wage was often considerably above state minimums. Along with the economic gains they brought to low-wage workers, these policies also had an enormous publicizing effect, in part at least because business groups mobilized to oppose them in such stentorian terms.