In the aftermath of the Obama administration’s failure to garner sufficient support for a federal minimum wage increase, some states are taking action on their own – including Massachusetts. State Governor Patrick has signed a measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage to eleven USD hourly by year 2017.
Although this will place Massachusetts at the top of the list of high minimum wage states, other Democrat-predominant states also are following suit. Democrats point to stagnating wages, persistent poverty among employees working a majority of the weeks of the year and an increased concentration of wealth in top percentiles as ample justification for mandated pay increases. Maryland, Hawaii and other blue states also are shifting towards a $10.10 minimum wage rate that’s identical to the one Barack Obama originally proposed for federal workers. Since these wage increases won’t trigger for several years, in theory, businesses are given ample time to adjust.
However, Republican objections to generalized minimum wage increases have been consistent. A minority of Republicans have expressed support for minimum wage increases of smaller quantities, but the majority remain steadfastly in opposition, claiming that businesses will be hurt by being forced to pay under-skilled workers non-competitive wages. Their party’s opposition was instrumental in blocking the president’s proposed federal minimum wage increase in 2013.
By way of contrast to their Democrat counterparts, Republican states tend towards low minimum wages that are intended to maintain a business-friendly environment that maximizes theoretical job growth. Of these states, Arkansas, Georgia and Wyoming maintain the lowest minimum wages ($6.25 for Arkansas, $5.15 for the latter two states). Minnesota also maintains an unusually low minimum wage for a predominantly blue state, with rates alternating between $5.25 or $6.15, dependent on the size of the employer.
Out of the fifty states of the US, thirty-eight have considered some form of minimum wage increase this year. Eight of them – all of them blue – have actually enacted the proposed bills, along with Washington DC.