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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Little Opposition Seen in Some Votes to Raise State Minimum Wages

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In state after state, labor unions and community groups have pushed lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, but those efforts have faltered in many places where Republicans control the legislature.

Frustrated by this, workers’ advocates have bypassed the legislature and placed a minimum-wage increase on the ballot in several red states — and they are confident that voters will approve those measures on Tuesday.

In Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, binding referendums would raise the state minimum wage above the $7.25 an hour mandated by the federal government.

These measures are so overwhelmingly popular in some states, notably Alaska and Arkansas, that the opposition has hardly put up a fight.

“These groups have noticed that minimum-wage increases can easily pass — they have seen this in the past few years,” said John G. Matsusaka, executive director of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. “They can’t get it through the legislatures in these red states, so they do it this way.”

Some Republicans say that the main reason for these initiatives is to mobilize low-income voters to help re-elect embattled Democrats, like Senators Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska. But supporters deny this, saying they are pushing to raise the minimum because so many workers are struggling and because the minimum wage has trailed inflation.

The measures in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and...
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