The 2014 midterm elections will be remembered as a bloodbath for the Democratic Party, but there were a few significant gains for workers in some unlikely places. There were a handful of minimum wage bills up for vote across the country, and voters overwhelmingly approved of all of them, sending a message to Congress that people are struggling and that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour simply isn’t cutting it any more.
These states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — all passed voter-backed initiatives, as opposed to executive actions handed down from on high. The gains the workers in these states are going to see over the next few years aren’t necessarily the biggest, but it’s some much-needed ground that they are making up. For comparison, Arkansas is raising its minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, while the city of San Francisco passed a $15 per hour minimum wage, tying it with Seattle for the nation’s highest. Those are drastically different places by every stretch, but being able to see how much disparity there is across the nation is important.
Of course, there’s likely to be some backlash following these new laws’ implementation. Jobs could be lost as a result, but local economies will likely improve a bit as workers have more money to spend and can lessen their dependence on public resources. The long-term effects won’t be known for some time, but if these states end up like the many others around the country that have higher minimum wage laws than what the federal government dictates, nothing too draconian or disastrous is likely to happen.
To get a more detailed report from each state, we’ve put together a series of infographics portraying the meaty data for each of the four states that passed increases. The data are cited from an NBC News report regarding the election results. To get to bottom of those results, read on to see each state individually.
Way up in the Great White North, Alaskans quietly voted to give their lowest earners a fairly dramatic bump of $2 more per hour. Sixty-nine percent of Alaskans voted in favor of a bill bumping the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $9.75 per hour in January 2016. It’s estimated that 46,000 workers will see a raise as a result.
Arkansas workers are getting a much-needed raise following the 65%-35% passing of their own state minimum wage increase. It’s expected that 168,000 workers will get a raise as a result. Currently, the minimum wage on the state’s books is below the federal minimum, sitting at $6.25 per hour. With the increase, workers can expect a bump to $7.50 by January, and then two more increases until the wage hits $8.50 in January 2017.
3. South Dakota
By a vote of 55% to 45%, South Dakota residents approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage from the federal level of $7.25 per hour to $8.50 per hour, effective at the beginning of 2015. Sixty-two thousand workers will be effected in what was the slimmest margin of victory for any minimum wage law during the midterm elections. Still, a 10-point victory isn’t even all that slim.
The fine folks of Nebraska came out in support of giving their lowest earners a raise, voting 59% to 41% in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour by January 2016. Currently, Nebraskan employers are required to pay the federal minimum wage of $7.25, so an increase of $1.75 per hour is fairly significant. One hundred and forty-three thousand Nebraska-based workers have reason to jump for joy.