LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Nineteen states raise their minimum wage today, delivering relief to low-income workers and validating efforts to bypass Congress and state legislatures and push for pro-working-class policies through ballot initiatives.
Twelve states have hiked their minimum wages via ballot initiatives in recent years, a focused push that election experts say hasn’t been seen since social conservatives used ballot initiatives aggressively in the early 2000s to define marriage as between a man and woman.
Michigan plans an increase by April, which will bring the total to 20.
With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009, activists now see ballot initiatives as a key tool to advance their economic agenda.
They are finding that voters, even in red states such as Arkansas, seem to be overwhelmingly willing check “yes” when policies to help the poor appear on the ballot.
A big push is underway for 2020 to use ballot initiatives to raise state minimum wages even higher — up to $15 — and expand Medicaid health coverage.
Efforts now are underway in North Dakota to get a vote on a $15 minimum wage in 2020 and in Nevada to raise its minimum wage to $14.
David Couch, a seasoned activist and lawyer in Little Rock, said he was inspired by Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart’s decision to raise its starting wage to $11 an hour nationwide.
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“I said, if Walmart can go to $11, why isn’t the state’s minimum wage $11 an hour?” Couch recalled
Iowa’s minium wage is $7.25 an hour.