Business

Tuesday's election one of many attempts to raise minimum wage

Voters in tiny SeaTac might be drawing the most attention when they go to polls Tuesday to vote on raising the minimum wage for airport and hotel workers to $15 an hour. But SeaTac isn't the only localized battle where advocates are trying to gather support for raising the minimum wage. Frustrated by a federal minimum wage bill that has gone nowhere, people in half a dozen other states are trying to get folks a raise.

New Jersey is the closest to seeing some sort of change. Voters there will decide Tuesday whether to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour  from the current rate of $7.25. If voters approve the ballot initiative, which asks voters to approve a Constitutional amendment, the minimum wage will continue to keep pace with inflation in the future. Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed a bill last month that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50.

A September poll indicated that 65% of voters in New Jersey supported raising the minimum wage. 

In Alaska, South Dakota and Idaho, activists are currently gathering signatures to put a minimum wage initiative on a future ballot, according to Paul Sonn, general counsel with the National Employment Law Project. Alaska's minimum wage is $7.75. In South Dakota and Idaho, the minimum wage is $7.25.

By contrast, Washington state, which borders Idaho, has a minimum wage of $9.19, meaning someone who lived in Idaho and crossed a state border to get a job in Washington could make more than $75 a week more simply by working in a different town. 

The legislatures in a few states may consider raising the minimum wage through laws. A legislative campaign in Maryland would raise the minimum wage to $10, while activists are also trying to push legislation in Illinois, Minnesota and Hawaii. 

Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10; some in the state are also pushing for a ballot initiative in case the bill falls through.

"This shows that when government is gridlocked, voters will take matters into their own hands," Sonn said. 

Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate have put forward bills to raise the federal minimum wage to $10, up from $7.25.

Certain municipalities also have acted independently of their states. The minimum wages in San Jose and San Francisco are higher than California's, and Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico have independently raised the minimum wage in their cities. 

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlanaSemuels

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