News & Commentary

November 5, 2014

In the run-up to yesterday’s election, the New York Times reported on the overwhelming popularity of minimum wage increases.  Even in several solidly Republican states, these measures are “so overwhelmingly popular . . . that the opposition has hardly put up a fight.”  The election bore out this optimistic forecast.  Four states, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, approved increases to the minimum wage, while a fifth, Illinois, passed a nonbinding advisory measure in favor of an increase.  The new state minimum wages ranged from $8.50 per hour in Arkansas and South Dakota to $9.75 per hour in Alaska, according to the Times.  In Alaska and South Dakota, the wage will continue to rise with inflation.  For additional reporting on these results, see Time and the Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, minimum wage increases also passed in some local elections.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports that voters in San Francisco approved an increase to $15 per hour, joining Seattle as the cities with the highest wages in the nation.  Across the bay in Oakland, voters approved a similar measure raising the minimum to $12.25 per hour.

The Huffington Post and the Boston Globe also report that Massachusetts voters have approved a measure giving the state “the nation’s strongest requirement for providing paid sick time to workers.”  Under to the measure, “employers will have to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work, to be capped at 40 hours of leave for the year,” according to the Post.

Moving away from election news, the Atlantic features a story about National Nurses United, a California-based union that has grown substantially in recent years, even as union membership has continued to decline nationally.  The union’s leader, RoseAnn DeMoro argues that something that differentiates her union from others is that “[h]er nurses aren’t out for better wages or pensions, she says, they’re out for their own safety and the safety of their patients.”  The article claims that “nurses might be most able to lead a labor resurgence because of the fact that they’re highly-skilled workers, and not easily replaceable.”  As a result, “[n]urses are less afraid to strike than fast food workers, for instance, because they know their employer won’t have an easy time finding someone to replace them.”

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