The Tuesday Count: Minimum wage battle heating up at state and local levels

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June 17, 2014

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Edited by Brittany Clingen

0 certifications
106 measures for 2014



Wages (News)
Ballot law (Quick hits)
Wages (Spotlight)

Minimum wage on the ballot
As the battle about the minimum wage continues to escalate across the nation, lines between state and municipal jurisdiction are growing increasingly blurry.

Last year in Washington, voters approved a $15 per hour minimum wage in the city of SeaTac. On the heels of this initiative's success, the Seattle group, "15 Now," threatened a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative in Seattle, if the city council did not take action. The council ultimately buckled, raising Seattle's minimum wage from $9.32 an hour - the highest in the country at the time - to $15 on June 2, 2014. As these efforts came to fruition, with whispers of similar efforts in the works elsewhere, activists opposed to the local measures, including prolific initiative petitioner Tim Eyman, started statewide initiatives seeking to nullify the local measures by making the state minimum wage supersede any local ordinance as the only enforceable wage regulation.[1][2]

One measure, known as Initiative 1358, is seeking a spot on the November 4, 2014 statewide ballot. If approved, the measure, which is also called the Fair and Uniform Minimum Wage Initiative, would require the minimum wage for workers of private employers be set by the state government and be uniform across the state. Local governments would be prohibited from requiring other minimum wage standards. It would further void existing local minimum wage requirements. It would not, however, prohibit project labor agreements authorized by state or federal law or affect existing collective bargaining agreements.[3] A second measure, the Washington Wage-Setting Authority Initiative, is being sponsored by Eyman and would, if approved by voters, grant sole wage-setting authority to the state government and prohibit political subdivisions from establishing or enforcing a minimum wage for employment by private employers. Eyman is seeking to place his initiative on the 2015 ballot.[4]

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At least seven other minimum wage-related measures have the potential to appear on 2014 statewide ballots, while two are certified. In Alaska, voters will decide whether to approve an increase in the state's minimum wage from $7.75 to $8.75 per hour beginning January 1, 2015. It would then be increased again on January 1, 2016, to $9.75 per hour and, from there on, be adjusted based on inflation or remain $1 higher than the federal minimum wage, whichever amount is greater. If this measure is approved, Alaska will have the highest minimum wage of any state in 2016 when the wage raises to $9.75 per hour.[5][6] Meanwhile, South Dakotans will vote on an initiative which seeks to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2015. The measure would also guarantee an increase in the minimum wage each year to account for inflation and set tipped employees' wages at half that of the minimum wage, raising their hourly pay from $2.13 to $4.25. This measure is sponsored by the South Dakota Democratic Party, as well as some labor unions.[7]

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in January 2014 found 53 percent of Republicans, 90 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Independents supported raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, for an overall support rate of 73 percent.[8] However, many are critical of using increased minimum wages to deal with income inequality, and argue that such increases can actually harm the economy overall. Concerns include employers cutting jobs because they will not be able to afford to pay all of their current employees or even moving their businesses out of state for cheaper labor costs. Such reactions to a rise in the minimum wage could make some low income earners worse off than before an increase.[9][10]

2014 Count
Number: 106 measures
States: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming

Quick hits

North Dakota equal custody initiative submitting signatures: Supporters of the Parental Rights Initiative started submitting signatures on June 16, 2014. Sponsors will continue submitting additional signatures over the next few days.[11] The measure would establish equal parental rights, parenting time and decision-making responsibility in child custody cases, unless "there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary."[12] Sponsors argue that mothers disproportionately receive child custody, even in cases where the father has not been proven unfit. Opponents say the current law is preferable because the present law focuses on children's rights, rather than parental rights.[13] A similar measure was on the ballot in 2006 but was defeated by voters.

Court strikes down California law requiring identity of measure backers to be on petitions: The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2 to 1 decision, struck down a law mandating that the identity of ballot measure proponents appear on the front of petitions. The court’s action is a result of Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition vs. Donna Norris.[14] Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain deemed the law unnecessary, saying, "Voters who wish to know the identities of official proponents need only make a trip to the City Clerk's office or search for the publication of the petition in their newspapers of general circulation." Judge Susan Graber dissented, arguing, "The government has an essential interest in preserving an electoral process that allows voters to know to whom they are delegating lawmaking power when signing a particular petition." Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) is reviewing the ruling and may appeal to the United States Supreme Court.[15]

Some Pennsylvania legislators looking to shrink the legislature: Some Pennsylvania legislators have proposed two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments to shrink the Pennsylvania Legislature. The Size of Legislature Reduction Amendment could take the form of either Senate Bill 324 or House Bill 1234, depending on the legislature's actions in the coming months. SB 324 would reduce the Pennsylvania Senate to 45 members and would not change the Pennsylvania House. The measure would also reduce the size of state courts and the executive branch.[16] HB 1234, on the other hand, would reduce the state house of representatives to 153 members, but not alter the senate.[17] Rep. Sam Smith (R-66), who is sponsoring the house bill, stated, "With technology constantly evolving, legislators can respond to constituents quickly and efficiently, while keeping more money in taxpayers' pockets. Reducing the size, and ultimately the cost, of the legislature is at the top of the list of things we can do to show constituents that we are serious about reform."[18]

Spotlight

Local activists seeking minimum wage increases on the ballot butt heads with state government and business owners:

Activists marching in Oakland, Alessandro Tinonga of SocialistWorker.org

Activists behind the wave of minimum wage increases on local ballots across the nation were expecting opposition from business interests and employers through lawsuits and advertising campaigns, but they are also facing resistance from both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers, as well as ballot initiative proponents at the state level.[19]

As activists in Washington try to preclude local minimum wage increases through statewide initiatives, the city council of Providence, Rhode Island, decided to put a minimum wage referendum on the ballot that would ask voters to approve a $15 minimum wage for all large hotels in the city. The Democrat-controlled Rhode Island House, however, sought to quash the city's referendum by passing a budget bill that prohibits any local minimum wage that exceeds the statewide level. Both the Rhode Island Senate and Governor Lincoln Chafee (D) are expected to approve the bill, killing the local minimum wage vote before it is even seen by city electors.[19]

In California, where minimum wage increase ballot proposals have cropped up in many large cities, initiative proponents have met with alternate proposals and efforts to compromise. Some such efforts have ended with a peaceful agreement, but in Oakland and San Diego, minimum wage activists have denounced the competing measures as wolves in sheep's clothing and claimed that the measures are meant to divert voters and appease workers without making any real changes necessary to lift low-wage workers out of poverty.[20]

The San Francisco City Council approved of a minimum wage proposal presented by Mayor Ed Lee as a compromise between business interests and a labor activist coalition, including SEIU Local 1021 and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Subsequently, the coalition agreed to drop their own initiative. This measure, which would hike the city's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, still faces opposition from restaurants and other businesses in the city that see the measure as a crippling handicap rather than an equitable compromise.[21]

In San Diego and Oakland, however, compromise has been more difficult to achieve, and voters in both cities will likely see competing minimum wage measures on the ballot. In San Diego, City Council President Todd Gloria is behind a measure that would increase the minimum wage to $13.09 per hour by 2017. City council candidate Blanca Lopez-Brown, however, is backing an initiative petition drive to put a competing $12 per hour minimum wage on the ballot. Lopez-Brown's initiative, which she put forward as a way to increase the wage without damaging the city's job market, would also grant exceptions to smaller businesses. Critics of the Lopez-Brown proposition argue that the exceptions would apply to 93 percent of the city's businesses, making the measure a cop-out. Advocates of both measures are seeking spots on the November ballot.[22][23]

Oakland voters could also be confused by two minimum wage measures on their November ballot. The confrontation in Oakland exists between the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of the city's labor unions. The union-backed measure seeks a minimum wage of $12.25 per hour by 2015, while the business interests and the chamber of commerce are looking to impose a minimum wage hike in phases over three years and exclude interns, certain workers paid through government reimbursements and employees making more than the minimum wage in tips.[22]

See also

2014 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2014 Scorecard

References

  1. Seattle Times, "Tim Eyman’s intriguing counterattack to Seattle’s $15 minimum wage," June 9, 2014
  2. Seattle City Council, "City Council Approves $15/hour Minimum Wage in Seattle: Historic vote addresses income inequality," June 2, 2014
  3. Washington Secretary of State, "Proposed Initiatives to the People - 2014," accessed June 7, 2014
  4. Seattle Met, "Morning Fizz: Struggling within the Same Broken System," June 5, 2014
  5. Homer News, "Minimum wage hike plan gets go-ahead," June 26, 2013
  6. AviationPros.com, "Labor Group Submits Signatures Backing Statewide Vote To Raise Minimum Wage," January 18, 2014
  7. The Kansas City Star, "SD Demos plan ballot measure to boost minimum wage," July 17, 2013
  8. Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, "Most See Inequality Growing, but Partisans Differ over Solutions," January 23, 2014
  9. Townhall.com, "Seattle Set To Destroy Economy With Highest Minimum Wage Increase In The World," May 20, 2014
  10. Slate.com, "Jobless in Seattle," May 2, 2014
  11. Valley News Live, "North Dakota Could See Changes to Child Custody," June 16, 2014
  12. Jamestown Sun, "Shared parenting initiative sponsors submit signatures," June 16, 2014
  13. KFYR, "Group Proposes Parental Rights Initiative," June 16, 2014
  14. Election Law Blog, "Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition vs. Donna Norris," accessed June 17, 2014
  15. Los Angeles Times, "Appeals court rules California initiative sponsors can stay anonymous," June 16, 2014
  16. Pennsylvania Legislature, "Senate Bill No. 324," accessed June 12, 2014
  17. Pennsylvania Legislature, "House Bill No. 1234," accessed June 12, 2014
  18. Penn Live, "Shrinking Legislature's size and other historic government reform measures now on track for Pa. Senate vote," June 3, 2014
  19. 19.0 19.1 Bloomberg Business Week, "Democrats Are Killing a $15 Minimum Wage in Providence," 16, 2014
  20. Oakland Local, "Berkeley mayor suggests regional minimum wage plan to Oakland, East Bay leaders," June 10, 2014
  21. San Francisco Chronicle Online, "S.F. to put $15 minimum wage on ballot," June 11, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 Inside Bay Area, "Oakland confronts dueling minimum wage hikes," June 13, 2014
  23. KPBS, "Competing Minimum Wage Measure Submitted To San Diego City Clerk," April 29, 2014