Policy Documents

Do Workers a Disservice - Raise the Minimum Wage

Robert N. Stewart –
October 1, 2005

Frustrated by failed attempts at the federal level, supporters of an increased minimum wage are turning to voters in various states to help them succeed in achieving their objective. In 2004, initiatives to pass a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman were placed on the ballot in several states. In 2006, proponents of raising the minimum wage hope to follow suit and put this issue on ballots in nine states.

The federal minimum wage was last raised in September of 1997. It is currently at $5.15 per hour, though several states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed laws that mandate a higher wage. While Iowa’s minimum wage is $5.15 per hour, efforts for a higher wage have been successful close to home: Illinois has a minimum wage of $6.50; Wisconsin recently began a two-step process to raise its minimum wage to $6.50 by June 1, 2006; and Minnesota raised its minimum wage to $6.15 on August 1, 2005.  Following up on these successes, an effort to increase South Dakota’s minimum wage via the ballot was recently started. Additionally, bills to increase the state minimum wage (SF 120 and H.R. 105) were introduced during the 2005 Iowa legislative session.