On Election Day, Big Winner Could Be Minimum Wage Hikes

by Mitchell Hirsch

Ballot measures to raise state or local minimum wage rates could be big winners on Election Day, November 4.  In Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voters will cast ballots on binding statewide initiatives to raise their state minimum wages.  Illinois voters will weigh in on a ballot question asking whether the legislature should raise that state’s minimum wage.  Voters in San Francisco and Oakland, California, will cast ballots on raising citywide minimum wages – to $15 by 2018 and to $12.25 by 2015 respectively.  And Wisconsin voters in nine counties and four cities will decide non-binding ballot initiatives to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Despite polls showing overwhelming support nationally for raising the federal minimum wage from its current poverty-level $7.25 per hour to at least $10.10, efforts to do so this year were blocked in Congress.  That’s one reason that grassroots efforts to raise minimum wages have caught on through ballot initiatives at the state and local levels.

Even in nominally conservative “red” states, support to raise minimum wages has been strong and growing.  The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Argus Leader newspaper this week reported a survey showing voters favor the statewide ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage by a 58 to 36 percent margin.  In Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star urged readers to vote in favor of the statewide ballot measure, which would raise Nebraska’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 by 2016.  Similarly, the Fairbanks, Alaska, Daily News-Miner this week called a state minimum wage increase “overdue” and urged voters to pass Ballot Measure 3, which would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 to $9.75 per hour by 2016 and enact an indexing provision for future increases.

We’ll be back next week with a full rundown on how raising the minimum wage played out on Election Day 2014.