Statement of Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:
“Tuesday’s vote underscored deep economic scarring and uncertainty across America—and the hunger of millions for what they think is real change—whether it’s electing Donald Trump or turning out to vote for ballot initiatives to raise wages and expand paid sick days. Voters are frustrated that though ours is the largest economy in the world and our nation is the richest, too many working people have been left out and left behind, for far too long.
“The campaign leading up to yesterday’s election also reflected how division and despair can be channeled into hatred and intolerance, targeting immigrants, women, people with disabilities and others as the reason so many have fallen behind—and in so doing, can give voice and vindication to our worst instincts as a people and a nation. This is profoundly wrong, and something we should not and cannot tolerate.
“Americans of all colors and creed have for too long been working too hard for too little. Parents of most of America’s children worry about what the future holds for the next generation, and for their own economic security in retirement. We all know that all of America’s workers should be sharing more in corporate profits, that trade should lift all of us up instead of pushing most of us down, and that the economy’s rules are rigged.
“The results on the minimum wage ballot initiatives show that voters are angry and demanding change. Voters in red, purple and blue states across the country decisively backed raises to the minimum wage, delivering badly needed raises for 2.3 million workers.
“The Election Day minimum wage ballot wins bring to 19.3 million the number of workers who have received raises because of minimum wage increases in the four years since the Fight for $15 launched in New York City and began changing the politics of the country around wages. The Fight for $15 continued to gain momentum Tuesday, with voters in Flagstaff, Arizona approving the first $15 minimum wage outside of the coasts. Voters in Maine and Flagstaff also delivered historic victories for the growing “One Fair Wage” movement. The wage initiatives passed there will gradually phase-out the unfair subminimum wage for tipped workers—and make them the first state and city to get rid of the tipped wage in more than 30 years.
“This election should be a wake-up call to Congress that voters are demanding bold action on the federal minimum wage and jobs, and workers have made clear that $15 is what they need to get by in all regions of the country. Donald Trump has called for raising the minimum wage. And during the election cracks emerged in Republican opposition. Senators Rob Portman and Ron Johnson reversed their opposition and announced that they are now open to an increase. And Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican to back a $15 minimum wage.
“The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, but the rules have been rigged by the super-rich and corporate interests. There is enough for everyone, and our challenge and moral duty are to make sure it’s shared more equitably. More than ever, NELP is committed to this fight. We will work tirelessly to enact positive and inclusive policies that improve the lives of all workers in America.”