States and municipalities across the country are leading a localized push to raise the minimum wage, driven largely by Democrats, who see an opening to appeal to working-class Americans at a time of growing inequity.
Efforts in Congress to raise the national minimum wage above $7.25 an hour have stalled. But numerous local governments — including those of Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and the District — are forging ahead, in some cases voting to dramatically increase the pay of low-wage workers.
Pete Davis, an analyst with the Center for Study of Responsive Law, a think tank headed by liberal activist Ralph Nader, said a lack of uniformity is a poor reason not to take action. “The D.C. area has one of the highest costs of living in the nation, so it makes sense that they are going to lead the charge on fighting back on inequality,” he said.
Elrich said he is also fine with pricey urban areas having different minimum wages than more rural ones, where the cost of living is lower. “What’s right for Montgomery or the D.C. region as a whole may not be what’s right for another jurisdiction,” he said.
The political ramifications of the Washington jurisdictions’ effort are likely to be clearer than the economic ones.
A local D.C. economy already under intense scrutiny for its ties to the federal government will be even more so as partisan observers try to determine whether every job lost or gained relates to some of the nation’s highest minimum-wage requirements.
And Davis said he sees the effort as the start of something bigger, especially for urban areas: “When a region like D.C., Prince George’s and Montgomery can do it, and they are successful, people are going to start to realize you can do it in New York and Chicago and Dallas and across the country.”
Throughout 2011, we sent community organizers into eight cities to organize neighbors onto CommonPlace. Below are some of the TV spots on their efforts.
Jeff Swift for the Raleigh CommonPlace:
Julia Campbell for the Burnsville CommonPlace:
And two spots for Sam Atkeson and Anjila Holland for the Marquette CommonPlace: