The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Voters Could Raise Min. Wage in Six States

by Michelle Chen

Nov. 1, 2006 – Low-income voters in six states will have a chance to give themselves a raise on November 7 with minimum-wage ballot initiatives that could boost the earnings of hundreds of thousands of workers.

Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio will consider measures that would raise the states’ base wages to between $6.15 and $6.85 per hour.

The community-advocacy organization ACORN, along with the national labor organization AFL-CIO, has launched door-to-door outreach efforts in most of those states to promote the initiatives and to encourage voter turnout in general.

Missouri’s initiative would set a base wage of $6.50 per hour, benefiting an estimated 256,000 workers, or 10 percent of the state’s workforce, according to the progressive think-tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI). That number includes workers whose incomes would be directly affected by the increase, along with an economic ripple effect that would also boost pay for higher-wage earners.

In Arizona, an initiative would set the base wage at $6.75, affecting more than 300,000 workers, according to the EPI. Similar measures in Colorado and Ohio would both raise the minimum wage to $6.85 per hour – a pay hike for an estimated 138,000 Colorado workers and 719,000 Ohio workers.

Though the ballot initiatives would not mandate a living wage – the income level required to meet basic living expenses – they all include an automatic annual cost-of-living increase.

Campaigns for state-level wage reforms are in part a response to inaction in Washington, where lawmakers have kept the federal minimum stagnant at $5.15 per hour since 1997.

The EPI’s analysis shows that for a single-parent family with two children, a full-time minimum-wage job in 2005 – even with additional low-income tax credits – would still keep the household below the official poverty line of $15,735. Those earnings would also fall far short of the income level that would cover essential household needs, estimated to range from $23,000 to $46,000, depending on location.

So far, according to ACORN, 22 states and the District of Columbia have approved measures to raise their wage floors higher than the federal minimum, with 19 successful initiatives since the 2004 elections.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Michelle Chen is a staff journalist.

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