MINIMUM WAGE ; More States Vote as Federal Action Stalls

By Wyatt, Kristen | Charleston Gazette Mail, October 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

MINIMUM WAGE ; More States Vote as Federal Action Stalls


Wyatt, Kristen, Charleston Gazette Mail


DENVER - Congress' inaction on the $7.25 hourly minimum wage is again playing out on state ballots, with voters in four states considering an increase and another considering wages for the youngest workers, even though the states already exceed the federal. In some cases voters are also deciding whether to add sick-leave policies to help the working poor. The ballot proposals in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington come two years after voters in five other states passed minimum-wage hikes. South Dakota voters are taking a second crack at wages, two years after raising them to $8.50 an hour.

Is it a slam dunk that this year's measures will pass, too? Maybe. Even the classic opponents to a higher minimum wage - restaurant associations and small-business groups - are running muted campaigns to oppose the wage measures.

"It almost always passes when it gets on the ballot, said Jerold Waltman, a political scientist at Baylor University who has written extensively about minimum wage and politics.

"Most Americans have a fundamental sense of fairness, that if you work, you ought to make enough to make a living wage on. Democrats and Republicans seem to agree on this, he said.

Four of the wage measures are only slightly different. Arizona, Colorado and Maine are considering phased-in $12 hourly minimum wages by 2020. In Washington state, where the minimum wage is $9.47 an hour, voters are considering a higher minimum wage, $13.50 an hour by 2020. The measures in Arizona and Washington also require employers to give paid sick leave.

Voters in South Dakota are looking at the minimum wage for the second time in as many years. They will consider a so-called "referred law to overturn a state law passed in reaction to a 2014 vote raising the minimum to $8.50, with the wage pegged to inflation.

South Dakota lawmakers lowered the minimum wage to $7.50 for workers under 18, with no inflation adjustment for those youngest workers. The ballot measure asks voters to choose between keeping lawmakers' approach to younger workers, or requiring higher wages for all working teens.

The campaigns are talking about folks like Mayra Pride in Colorado, a 25-year old mother of three. Born and raised in Denver, Pride and her husband are considering moving after the birth of a fourth child because they can't make ends meet on his pay for landscaping and construction jobs.

"It's not close to enough, Pride said after a recent shopping trip to a discount store that sells cheap toiletries and paper goods. …

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