Good story on NPR this morning on the minimum wage in Arkansas, where proponents are hoping to put an initiative on the ballot to raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour. NPR followed a volunteer from the grassroots group Give Arkansas a Raise Now:
“Hi, I’m Taylor. And I’m with Give Arkansas A Raise Now …” he recited.
Elizabeth Danley doesn’t take much convincing. She grabbed a pen and eagerly signed Dilday’s petition.
“This is the hope for Arkansas. We worry about Arkansas so much. We need to be paying ourselves, besides the people who are up there in the 1 percent. The rest of us need to be part of that,” she said.
Working his way along streets of solid, brick houses, many of them decorated with flags of the Arkansas Razorbacks, Dilday got a mixed reaction. At the Phillips household, the whole family took a break from cooking dumplings to add their names to his petition.
Other residents close the door on Dilday before he can even get a word out.
“It’s hit or miss with every neighborhood. Generally, you know out west, the further you go, the more backlash we get. But the further inner-city we go, we have a lot of supporters,” Dilday said.
The story notes that a ballot initiative on the minimum wage hike, which polls well, might give an assist to Democrats in state-wide races, such as Sen. Mark Pryor. Of course, while Pryor supports the state wage hike to $8.50, he opposes the Senate bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, and will likely join Republicans in a filibuster.
Hendrix politics professor Jay Barth tells NPR: “He’s all in on the state minimum wage, while he’s able to kind of say, ‘I’m not for Obama’s minimum wage.'” Well put summation of the maneuvering of an Arkansas Democrat in Obama-hating Arkansas (not so different from Kentucky politicians hating on Obamacare but embracing KyNect, the state’s program implementing the health care law, or Arkansas politicians doing the same with the private option).
Still, I think it’s worth noting the human cost to the political positioning Pryor is taking here. Arkansas currently has among the lowest wages in the nation and as you can see from the graphic above, it’s Arkansas workers who would have the most to gain from the federal minimum wage bill.