The Minimum Wage and Ballot Initiatives

Progressives are united on the need to raise the minimum wage. It's been almost a decade since the last hike and it's unrealistic to think that anyone could survive or raise a family on $5.15/hr. Yet, House Republicans are refusing to allow a vote on increasing the minimum wage to $7.25/hr over two years. They must have exhausted the energy they devote to legislating in their attempt to pass another pay raise for members of congress - whose pay has jumped by $31,600 since the last increase in the minimum wage.

In Arizona and Montana, the AFL-CIO and its members are taking matters into their own hands. Activists are collecting signatures in those states to put initiatives on the ballot for a $2.10/hr increase in the minimum wage. Reasonable people may disagree on the proper role of ballot initiatives in our Democracy, but this is an intriguing tactic for two reasons. First, moving towards a living wage is an important policy goal and ballot initiatives offer a way around obstinate Republican leadership in the House. Secondly, anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives drove culturally conservative voters to the polls in 2004; ballot initiatives on the minimum wage may have a similar effect on working families and progressive voters in 2006.


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