Workers’ groups show candidates that supporting higher wages wins votes

Several worker advocacy groups in swing states are showing senatorial candidates that according to polls, voters support raising the minimum wage and expanding eligibility for overtime pay.

The groups include the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund and the Working Families Party. They report that when voters learn that GOP incumbent senators oppose raising the minimum wage and expanding overtime pay eligibility, they often switch their support to Democratic challengers.

This might greatly influence the outcome of close U.S. Senate races in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire and Arizona.

Forty four Senate Republicans have signed a resolution opposing the overtime pay expansion the U.S. Labor Department plans to implement December 1.

“Voters are fed up with lack of action in Washington on raising wages for working people, and what we’re seeing is that just letting voters know where the candidates stand on these issues can have a significant impact,” Dan Cantor, executive director of the Working Families Party, says.

He cited polls that found:

  • Nationally, voters support expanding overtime pay eligibility by a three-to-one ratio. Just over half of voters say they would oppose a candidate who opposes the expansion.
  • In Pennsylvania, three-fourths of voters say they support raising the minimum wage. Also, by an 81 to 15 percent margin, they say they approve of expanding eligibility for overtime pay. Fifty seven percent of voters say they will oppose candidates who do not support these goals. (Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty has made raising the minimum wage a key plank in her race against GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.)
  • In Missouri, voters approve expanding overtime pay eligibility by a 76 to 16 percent margin. If a candidate opposes the idea, 53 percent of voters say it would lessen their support.
  • In Ohio, voters approve expanding overtime pay eligibility by an 80 to14 percent margin. And if a candidate opposes the idea, 51 percent of voters say they would lessen their support.

“Working women and men should be paid for the time they work, period. The Obama administration’s decision to increase the overtime threshold is an enormous, in many cases life-changing, win for working people, from fast-food, retail and healthcare managers to post-doctoral associates and counselors,” Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry has said.

She continued: “This action will put more money in people’s pockets and boost the economy. It will boost women, African Americans, Latinos, people who are early in their careers and people who have modest education levels – the very people hardest hit by the 40-year assault on working people built on phony trickle-down economics.”

“Raising wages includes lifting national wages, but it’s far broader than that,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has said. “We want earned sick leave and paid family leave. We want full employment, fair overtime rules and fair scheduling so people won’t have to guess whether they’ll get enough hours to pay the rent.”

The Working Families Party, the NELP Action Fund and their allies are working to inform workers about where candidates for office from president down to city councilperson stand on raising wages,” said NELP fund spokesman Paul Sonn.

Photo: AFL-CIO


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.