While the federal minimum wage sits at a grotesque number of $7.25 per hour, republican governors and legislatures across the country are out to undo what previous assemblies have accomplished: they are lowering the minimum wage.
No, you didn’t misread that. It is precisely what they are doing and they are not even attempting to hide it. In an age where millions of workers struggling to make ends meet each month are fighting the greed of multinational corporations on the front lines of picket rallies and protest marches hoping for a living wage in the “Fight for 15,” the Missouri legislature just passed a bill to decrease the minimum wage from $10.10 to a measly $7.70, a near 25% cut in St. Louis. A measure that benefits not a single working family in St. Louis or nationwide.
Iowa just a few months back recently passed a similar measure which undid wage increases implemented by larger cities but their (Republican) governor was much more enthusiastic about the wage cuts saying “I think that uniformity is critically important, especially when you have communities that are in more than one county.”
Terry Branstad’s (governor of Iowa) reasoning is nothing short of shallow attempt at suppressing wages, doing the bidding of mega corporations, and also suppressing voting participating among lower-income residents and families. Seattle Washington has seen exceptional wage growth since phasing in their $15 minimum wage in contrast to the state level of just $11 per hour. Food servicing wages have increased and the economy has been bolstered despite Branstad’s faux theory that a consistent minimum wage is more beneficial. Given the success of Seattle’s wage hike, wouldn’t a more sensible approach be to raise the state’s minimum wage in order to have a singular wage on par with the counties that had already done so?
But that would benefit the middle class too much for the likes of some Republicans. The real reason is much darker: voter suppression. Exit polls from the 2014 mid-term elections just 3 years ago showed that incomes of under $50,000 made up 49% of the population but just 36% of the vote share. In contrast, incomes greater than $100,000 made up only 22% of the population but a whopping 30% of the vote share. On top of this, Latino and African-Americans are far more likely to be hurt be slashing wages. According to Pew Research, Latino and Black men make $0.69 and $0.73 for every $1.00 a white man makes respectively. And the situation is even worse for women of color. Why is the color gap significant? Exit poll after exit poll from both mid-term and presidential elections show that African-Americans and Latinos vote overwhelmingly against republicans and their platform. In just the 2016 election alone African-Americans voted for Hillary Clinton by an 88% to 8% and Latinos by a 66% to 28% margin.
The reason for this voting-income disparity is simple: the less money you make, the more stress is on your plate. Families in tough financial situations are likely wondering where the next meal is coming from, or how to keep the heat on rather than having time or energy to invest themselves into local, state, and federal elections. We have all heard the theory that when fewer people vote, republicans win. In a paper published in 2007 by Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler showed “that wide gaps between voters and non-voters have opened up when it comes to class-based issues.” And the data could not be more clear. In a 2012 survey by Pew Research, likely voters were split 47% to 47% on their presidential preference of either Governor Mitt Romney or incumbent President Barack Obama. However, unlikely voters would have carried Obama in a landslide by a 59% to 24% margin.
Another 2006 study by Public Policy institute found that non-voters were far more likely to support progressive policies such as higher taxes on the wealthy, more government services like health care, and affordable housing. Each and every one of these is a big no-no with the Republican Party and their donors.
It’s extremely clear what the Republican governors and legislatures end game here is, and simply wanting a “uniform minimum wage” across the board is not remotely close to their true intentions. The end game for the GOP is simple: suppress the vote to tilt elections in their favor.