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The Minimum Wage, Conservative Posturing, and Progressive Success

Fully aware that their anti-worker policies are anathema to most Americans, corporate conservatives often posture and position themselves on worker issues to avoid bearing the full brunt of the backlash from their noxious positions and to try to fix blame on their opponents, who really are working for the common interest.

There is probably no better example of this toxic behavior than what is happening in Ohio. In Ohio, the state minimum wage (which applies to a small number of workers not protected by the $5.15 an hour federal minimum) is a mere $4.25 an hour.

Someone making four-and-a-quarter an hour and working 40 hours per week and 50 weeks per year will bring home $8,500. The conservative bill will bring that wage up to the $5.15 an hour, so that these workers will bring home $10,300.

So what's so vicious? Two things. First, the move is clearly designed in part to try to head off a real increase later this fall where there is a initiative in the works to bump in the minimum wage to $6.75 per hour -- an effective $3,200 per year raise for workers making the federal minimum. Second, the Republicans tied the minimum wage increase to a bill reducing workers' compensation for employees injured on the job.

And, of course, this corporate conservative wedging is all window dressing because relatively few workers make less than the federal minimum.

But the record is also clear. When it comes to the minimum wage, they have to prepare window dressing, because the issue is just too popular. That's why an increase from $6.50 to $7.00 per hour is moving forward in Maine and why the Ballot Issue Strategy Center says that minimum wage is the ballot issue for progressives to watch in 2006 as initiatives move forward in as many as 11 states, including California, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio. Additional efforts are being considered in Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota.

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