Election Day 2018 was another good day for minimum wage increases. There were two statewide ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage, and both won. These were not blue states, either: 62 percent of Missouri voters said yes to a minimum wage of $12 an hour in 2023, up from $7.85 now, while 68 percent of Arkansas voters said yes to a minimum wage of $11 an hour in 2021, up from $8.50 now.
That will benefit a combined one million workers:
The increase in Arkansas will raise pay for an estimated 300,000 workers (about a quarter of the state’s wage-earning workforce). The Missouri increase will lift pay for 677,000 workers (also about a quarter of wage-earners in the state.) In both cases, the majority of workers who will get a raise are women, most work full time, and they come from families with modest incomes. Analyses of the measures estimate that the raise in Arkansas will put over $400 million into the pockets of low-wage workers there over the course of the increases. In Missouri, low-wage workers will receive nearly $870 million in additional wages over the course of the measure’s implementation.
Both Missouri and Arkansas were already above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, with Arkansas voters having previously approved a raise in 2014. That wasn’t enough, so they came back for more. What’s particularly interesting here, though, is the relationship between the minimum and the average:
The Arkansas law would give the state effectively the highest minimum wage in the nation in 2021 when compared to the state’s median pay. There will be a narrow gap between the $11 minimum wage in Arkansas and the state’s median wage of about $14.80 an hour, meaning people at the bottom will earn close to what the middle class does. California and New York will almost certainly have wider gaps between their minimum wages and median wages, according to calculations by Horpedahl using Labor Department data. As for Missouri, its effective minimum wage would be among the top 10 in the country, outranking more liberal New York and Massachusetts.
Congressional Republicans are still unwilling to go up from the poverty wage of $7.25 an hour at the federal level, but 29 states and the District of Columbia have risen above, with 23 states and D.C. having passed increases since 2014. The people have spoken. The people keep speaking. Congressional Republicans are ignoring them.