The Hill: In the road to fair wages, citizens will win where lawmakers fail
The Fairness Project's Executive Director, Jonathan Schleifer, explains how voters are taking matters into their own hands.
By Jonathan Schleifer
January 14, 2017
For many Americans, 2017 is already giving them a reason to celebrate. Millions of low-wage workers received their first raise of the new year this week as minimum wage increases in 19 states were seen in paychecks across the country.
These raises range from a few cents an hour to more significant increases. In Maine, where the wage went up by $1.50 an hour, 2017 ushers in the first raise in nearly eight years. More may be needed to bring financial security to workers and their families, but the new wage will be a big help for tens of thousands struggling to make ends meet in that state.
While these workers celebrate better wages, tens of millions of others watch as Congress enters its eighth year without changing the federal minimum wage, and many state legislatures remain locked in partisan fights that prevent economic solutions from reaching workers.
In some cases, politicians did their jobs. They saw the need to address low wages for their constituents and raised them—but those were rare and far between. For 70 percent of the raises taking effect this year, relief came directly from citizens acting through ballot measures. This form of direct democracy allows millions of voters and community leaders to join forces and vote for an economy that’s a little fairer for themselves, their neighbors and their families.