On Election Day, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota rejected the notion that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is sufficient for workers, and passed binding referendums to increase their minimum wages. Alaska’s minimum wage will increase to $9.75 by 2016. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016, and South Dakota’s minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2015.
While Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota join the growing number of states and localities that have raised their own minimum wage to levels higher than the federal rate, all Americans deserve a living wage and this problem calls for a federal solution. But despite widespread public support, House Republicans and big business continue to block efforts to raise the minimum wage. These Republicans and their corporate backers have stuck to the same old, tired argument that raising the minimum wage will be bad for businesses, despite findings from a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research which found that states that raised the minimum wage experienced faster employment growth than the states that didn’t.
The value of the minimum wage has been declining for more than four decades, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would now be worth over $10 per hour. Yet, we are stuck at $7.25 per hour as more and more workers are either falling out of the middle class or struggling in poverty due to insufficient wages and more and more wealth is concentrated in the hands of the one percent.
Raising the current federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation would provide millions of workers with a living wage and boost our economy. It’s time for Republicans to address the many Americans who are struggling to get by and raise the minimum wage.