In four states, voters approved increases in their minimum wage this past Election Day. Arizona, Colorado, and Maine voters approved phased–in minimum wage increases to at least $12.00 per hour by 2020. In Washington the increase will be $13.50 by 2020. Seventeen other states (including Vermont) and many cities have already raised minimum wage requirements in recent years. However the Federal minimum wage remains low at $7.25 per hour.
Commenting on the passage of minimum wage hikes Holly Sklar, CEO of an organization called Business for a Fair Minimum Wage says: “This really reinforces what we know—that there’s very strong support among the general public for raising the minimum wage, and there’s also strong support in the business community for raising the minimum wage. And you can see it across the country and across the political spectrum.”
There’s a clear business case for supporting the increase. “To put it in the most basic terms, workers are also customers,” says Sklar. “Some of the political opposition against raising the minimum wage often acts like workers and customers are like two different species of people.”
Here in Vermont the Democrats and Progressives in the legislature passed and Governor Shumlin (D) signed an incremental minimum wage bill increase to $10.00 per hour in January 2017 and $10.50 by 2018. Governor-elect Phil Scott(R) opposed this move. He said then and now that he prefers not to “burden” businesses and that wages should be left alone to grow “organically.”
Good news has been in short supply since Election Day but that shouldn’t diminish the fact that thanks to the voters roughly two million low-wage workers wages will benefit from these increases — a good small step, long in coming.