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Green: Above federal minimum wage. Blue: At federal level. Red: Below federal level.
Yellow: No minimum wage. (Raise the Minimum Wage)

Raising the minimum wage is once again developing momentum as an issue both federally and in the states. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. already have minimum wages above the federal level, and at least six others are considering doing so. The New York Times' Steven Greenhouse reports on the efforts to raise federal or state minimum wages—and on the predictable pushback from business interests that oppose a livable minimum wage.

In part, it's time: The last time the federal minimum increased was in 2009, and the bill that increased it had been passed in 2007 after years of fighting to do so. In part, the current $7.25 minimum was too low when it went into effect, and this is a fight that shouldn't end until the federal minimum wage is raised and then indexed to inflation. And in part, it's a good election-year issue for Democrats; Greenhouse writes that:

[Many Democrats and their labor allies] say a public debate now over the merits of increasing wages is bound to put many Republicans on the defensive during an election year and would encourage low-income Americans — an important part of the Democratic base — to go to the polls this November.

“It’s always good to surface an issue that captures voters’ enthusiasm and distinguishes the bad guys and the good guys,” said Jen Kern, minimum wage campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers.

In New York, for instance, which is considering an increase to its state minimum wage, a Quinnipiac poll found that 78 percent of voters support an increase, with just 20 percent opposed. Even a majority of Republicans were favorable. Among voters who supported raising the minimum wage, more than half wanted to raise it above $8.50 an hour and more than a third thought $8.50 was right. This isn't just a blue-state issue, either: In 2004, Florida voters amended their state constitution to index the minimum wage even as they voted to reelect George W. Bush. This year, Missouri may have a minimum wage referendum.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage (who, it should be noted, are often opponents of it existing at all) claim dire consequences would ensue. Research, though, shows that raising the minimum wage does not result in job loss. With so many states and cities raising their minimum wages, economists have been able to look at job statistics in those places compared with their neighbors and have established that this claim by opponents is, plainly, a myth. Study after study shows a neutral or positive effect on jobs. And by giving low-wage workers more money to spend in their communities, raising the minimum wage works as an economic stimulus.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Daily Kos.

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