Voters in Northwest
city lead the pack
to $15 per hour
Rachel Maddow on Thursday focused on the popularity of raising the minimum wage.
WHILE MOST WERE preoccupied this week with reports about the national US economy, a less well-known groundswell of support is building across the land for a big increase in the minimum wage.
As has been the case on other issues, the push is coming from the bottom up. The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, and its purchasing power is now the same as it was in 1960.
But states and even cities are moving far more aggressively past it. One city in the state of Washington looks as if it may set a record with a $15 per hour minimum wage if the preliminary results of Tuesday’s election continue to hold as ballots are counted.
THE BIGGEST PUSH is coming in the tiny municipality just outside Seattle that surrounds the Pacific Northwest’s major airport, SeaTac.
The web site MyNorthwest had an account of the latest results of Tuesday’s voting in Margin narrows for SeaTac minimum wage measure.
The election results in SeaTac reported on MyNorthwest web site. Click image to enlarge.
Josh Kerns reported Nov. 7 that “the latest election results Thursday night showed the measure leading by just 141 votes.
“The current numbers show City of SeaTac Proposition No. 1 received 2,305 ‘yes’ votes and 2,164 ‘no’ votes.”
This actually is a fairly substantial margin of 52 to 48 percent, but the tally is not yet final because all the voting is done by mail. Only 4,469 ballots had been counted by Thursday in the city with a little over 12,000 registered voters.
Ballots will continue to be counted and the race certified Nov. 26.
Meanwhile, on her show Thursday evening Rachel Maddow noted how New Jersey voters approved a minimum wage hike to $8.25 by 61 percent to 39 percent, reversing Gov. Chris Christie’s April veto of the measure.
“With that huge margin, the people of New Jersey essentially overruled their popular governor on that even more popular issue,” Maddow said. Christie won re-election in Tuesday’s balloting.
She went on to a remarkable observation:
“Whenever the minimum wage is on the ballot it blows up! People vote for it.
“The American people are really, really populist on this issue. If you put the minimum wage on the ballot basically anywhere, it wins.
“Not only does it win, it often wins by so much it moves other races on the same ballot.”
There’s a reason for this, of course.
The graphic by the Department of Labor shows minimum wages all over the map. Click image to enlarge.
A July study by one of the leading survey research firms in the U.S., Hart Research Associates explains why in Public Support for raising the minimum wage.
“By a ratio of four to one, Americans support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and adjusting it for the cost of living in future years,” says the report by Guy Molyneux.
“Eight in ten adults (80 percent) approve of this minimum wage proposal, including 46 percent who strongly approve, and just 20 percent disapprove.”
Such overwhelming support is extraordinary for any public policy issue. But the report doesn’t stop there; it adds a noteworthy observation:
“Nearly three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) also say that raising the minimum wage should be an important priority for Congress to address over the next year, including 38 percent who say very important.”
So it is a top tier issue for the electorate. Are our representatives listening?
SEEMS LIKE THEY may be paying attention, according to the report Friday buried deep inside The New York Times and headlined $10 Minimum Wage Proposal Has Growing Support From White House.
Catherine Rampell and Steven Greenhouse report:
The New York Times story about the president supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Click image to enlarge.
“The White House has thrown its weight behind a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.
“President Obama … supports the Harkin-Miller bill, also known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, from its current $7.25.”
The legislation is sponsored in the Senate by Tom Harkin of Iowa and in the House by George Miller of California, both Democrats.
According to their March 5 press release announcing the bill, the legislation “would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from its current $7.25, then provide for automatic annual increases linked to changes in the cost of living.
“Harkin and Miller’s bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers – which currently stands at just $2.13 an hour – for the first time in more than 20 years, to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.”
But the federal government is way behind the curve.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill in September that would raise the rate gradually from $8 to $10 per hour by 2016 for the nation’s most populous state.
In fact, according to the federal Department of Labor, California is not alone. About 18 states have higher minimum wage rates than the federal $7.25 per hour; four are lower than the federal minimum and five have no minimum wage at all.
It is not the first time the federal government is getting a push from below. But this is a development that could potentially affect millions of people as it spreads around the country before arriving in the nation’s capital.
It is the right and decent thing to do. How can those fat cats in Washington oppose a decent living wage for hardworking Americans when they put in a three-day week for a six-figure salary?
They should not.
This is an issue whose time has come. It should be sooner, rather than later.
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