News » Unda' the Rotunda

Maximum Effort Required to Bump Minimum Wage

Advocates need a minimum of 53,751 signatures by next April 15 in order to ask Idahoans if they're prepared to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.80, through incremental increases, by the end of 2017.

by

It's all about the numbers: 53,751; $7.25; $9.80; and 12/31/2017.

Simply put, advocates need a minimum of 53,751 signatures by next April 15 in order to ask Idahoans if they're prepared to raise the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $9.80, through incremental increases, by the end of 2017.

"Look, if the minimum wage had gone up along with inflation, it would be about $10.70 an hour right now," Anne Nesse told Boise Weekly. "More importantly, our purchasing power would be about 30 percent greater. It would be the quickest boost possible for our economy; certainly quicker than taxing the rich."

Nesse, founder and organizer of what she calls the "Raise Idaho" initiative, insisted that she has a 100-strong volunteer force statewide--and she'll need them.

"We need to collect signatures from 6 percent of those Idahoans who voted in the [2012] presidential election. But we want to send a pretty big message, so our target is more like 84,000," she said.

But Nesse conceded that the lion's share of her effort lies ahead.

"We have roughly 5,000 [signatures] right now, but when we get a chance to talk to people about this, the issue really jumps right out," said Nesse, who ran an unsuccessful 2012 Idaho House campaign, losing to Coeur d'Alene Republican Rep. Kathy Sims. "But now, I'm looking for allies on this issue, particularly Idahoans who want to run for the Legislature in 2014. Believe me, this is a winning issue for either party."

The Raise Idaho effort will not be subject to a new law, passed by the 2013 Idaho Legislature, requiring ballot initiatives to secure signatures from 6 percent of voters in 18 of Idaho's 35 legislative districts. Instead, the Raise Idaho campaign will be able to gather its 6 percent from the entire state, meaning they'll be able to concentrate on populous sectors of Idaho, such as the Treasure Valley.

"And that's why we have to do this right now. We were grandfathered in, because we launched the campaign before Senate Bill 1108 was signed into law," said Nesse.

If approved by voters in November 2014, the proposed initiative would bump minimum wages--currently $7.25 per hour--to $8.10 per hour in 2015, $8.95 per hour in 2016 and $9.80 per hour in 2017. Thereafter, the minimum wage would be adjusted using the Consumer Price Index.

In addition to launching an initiative website at raiseidaho.org, activists said they're preparing to "stand with striking fast-food workers to get the economy moving again," at a protest planned for Thursday, Dec. 5, outside of the McDonald's on Boise's Broadway Avenue. Leading the action will be the Service Employees International Union and United Vision for Idaho.

"And it's really important to note that a number of businesses have also signed our petitions," said Nesse. "They understand that if they don't have customers with greater purchasing power, they can't run a business. Even Henry Ford understood that if you build a car but had no customers, it really wouldn't matter whether you built the car in the first place."