Not Working For Workers

The minimum wage is a "wedge issue from hell" this election year for conservatives. And it should be. Workers matter.

Conservatives Are Being Dragged Down By Opposition To Raising The Minimum Wage

Conservatives candidates are finding out that their opposition to raising the minimum wage is going to be a problem for them come Election Day. In a piece for Politico, reporter Timothy Noah describes the issue for Republicans this year as a “wedge issue from hell.

It’s not hard to see why. Raising the minimum wage is enormously popular with Americans: one recent poll found that 90 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans favored raising the federal minimum to $10.10 from $7.25. There are four states — Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska, none known as a bastion for progressive policies — with binding ballot initiatives this November to raise the wage, and all four stand a good chance of being approved by voters. This broad support is manifesting itself in competitive races as well. Here are several examples of how conservative candidates can try to run from the issue this election, but they can’t hide:

In Iowa, Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst opposes the federal minimum wage and says $7.25 is “appropriate for Iowa.” According to a CAP Action poll from August, 80 percent of Iowans say they could not support their household on Iowa’s minimum wage, which amounts to about $15,000 per year. And while Ernst opposes a minimum-wage hike, 57 percent of Iowans support it, and 52 percent say would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is against increasing the minimum wage.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has opposed raising the minimum wage, even though 55 percent of Floridians support raising it to $10.10 per hour. His failure to raise the wage to $10.10 means that 1.7 million Floridians—including 357,000 African Americans and 536,000 Hispanics—are missing out on $2.1 billion in higher wages. It also forgoes $1.3 billion in economic growth. A substantial 38 percent of Floridians are less likely to vote for Scott because of his position on the issue, according to a CAP Action poll.

In Colorado, Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner opposes—and has voted against—a minimum-wage increase even though most Coloradans support it, including 61 percent of women. Women make up the majority of those who would benefit from an increase—approximately 224,000 Colorado women would get a raise if the minimum wage went to $10.10. And women voters are planning to let Gardner know they disagree with his position: Another CAP Action poll found that 41 percent say they are less likely to vote for Cory Gardner based on his views on minimum wage.

In Illinois, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has completed a full reversal of his position on the issue. At first he favored eliminating the minimum wage altogether, then backtracked to support reducing the state’s $8.25 minimum to the federal $7.25. Now he says he would support raising the state minimum if certain conditions were met. A non-binding referendum in the state to raise the minimum wage to $10 is expected to pass by a wide margin.

BOTTOM LINE: Raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer to help hard-working Americans make ends meet, and stimulate economic growth. Americans understand that, and they want to elect candidates who get it too.