Despite being brutalized in the midterm elections in terms of seats, Democrats still won a major victory in getting minimum wage hikes approved in several right-leaning states. Nebraska, Arkansas, Alaska, and South Dakota (Illinois approved an advisory measure) all voted to raise the minimum wage. Oregon and Pennsylvania also have campaigns firing up. By January of 2015, 26 states will have minimum wages that exceed the federal $7.25 per hour. Speaker of the House John Boehner had some pretty strong words against raising the minimum wage in the past.
I’ll commit suicide before I vote on a clean minimum-wage bill.”
Governor Chris Christie has his own opinions on the topic.
I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.”
Despite such notable opposition, the Republican senators from Arkansas and Alaska were unopposed to their states measures, which may have contributed to the successes. The majority of Republicans oppose wage hikes under the assumption that higher wages will cost the economy jobs. They cite a Congressional Budget Office Report that claims increased wages will cost around a million jobs. However, economists at University of California, Berkeley, have studied the economic impact on cities that have actually enacted wage hikes. Their findings are quite different than those theorized by the CBO report.
Ten years ago, San Francisco raised its minimum wage 26 percent to $8.50 per hour. Through regular increases, it is now at $10.74. Additionally businesses are required to provide paid sick leave and either insurance or contributions to a pool to cover uninsured residents. The results? No job losses. No dramatic price increases. The study found almost no impact on employment at all. Some small price increases were noted at restaurants with high concentrations of minimum wage workers, but most costs were simply absorbed because of lower turn over and higher worker productivity. Another study done by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research on Santa Fe’s economy after a similar wage hike found minimal impact. There were some businesses that closed, but employment actually went up overall and fared better than in the city of Albuquerque that did not enact a wage hike.
Access to information is showing that many of the Republican oppositions have been disproved by communities that have already enacted higher minimum wages. And while a higher minimum wage certainly won’t be the answer to one’s dreams, it’ll help the nearly 5 million people that are currently working for minimum wage and struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table.
[Image courtesy of stateandfederalposter.com]