JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The federal minimum wage has been frozen at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
But several grassroots organizations are determined to change that and are focusing on seven swing states, including Missouri, which they say are key in this upcoming election.
A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found 7 out of 10 voters in these states want to see the minimum wage increased.
Paul Sonn with the National Employment Law Project Action Fund says those surveyed also say they will back candidates who support raising the minimum wage.
“It found in all of those states where there are Republican incumbent senators that have been opposing raising the minimum wage when voters learn of their positions, the incumbents lose several points of support,” he points out. “And it Arizona, Missouri and North Carolina, it flips the races on their heads.”
The key race in Missouri is between Republican incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander.
In this latest poll, Kander had support from 43 percent of voters while Blunt had 47 percent, and 10 percent were undecided.
Sonn says the country was in the same type of situation 10 years ago when members of Congress blocked action on the minimum wage.
“Then a group of senators ran, challenging incumbents on the minimum wage,” he relates. “Those are senators like Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Jon Tester in Montana, and they beat incumbents by highlighting the incumbents’ opposition to the minimum wage and took control of the Senate and helped break the logjam.”
Low-wage workers are chiming in as well.
Jimmy Plant works in fast food in St. Louis and says basic things such as rent, utilities, and food are nearly impossible to afford at minimum wage.
“Yes, it’s bad,” he states. “I can barely afford anything, especially after taxes. So much of my paycheck is gone.”
In Missouri, 45 percent of voters say they strongly support candidates who want to increase the minimum wage, and nearly 4 in 10 want it to go up each year until it reaches $15 an hour.