Coalition Plans to Press Senate Candidates to Back Minimum Wage Rise

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

From The Wall Street Journal:

by Melanie Trottman

The minimum wage has already been an issue on the presidential campaign trail. Now, three national progressive groups plan to use it to pressure Senators in tight races to back higher wages or face a backlash on election day.

The Working Families Organization, the National Employment Law Project Action Fund, and the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund are teaming up with grassroots organizations in seven battleground states to educate voters about where lawmakers stand on a policy they say can help low-wage workers and the economy.

They also plan to pressure candidates who have opposed higher minimum wages or who haven’t picked a side. In the coming weeks, they are planning a series of actions they hope will influence swing voters, drive voters to the polls, and shame lawmakers into advocating for higher pay floors.

“There’s unprecedented momentum this year for raising the minimum wage. Voters are hungry for leaders who’ll take a strong stand in raising wages and frustrated with their Republican majorities in Congress,” said Paul Sonn, a spokesperson for the National Employment Law Project Action Fund.

While the focus is on Senate races, “partners in this effort are educating voters on where candidates for office from president down to city councilperson stand on raising wages,” said Mr. Sonn, who added that Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of raising the federal minimum wage while Donald Trump “has been all over the map.”

With control of the Senate hanging in the balance after Republicans won the majority in 2014, the groups are betting minimum wage could be a pivotal issue in key races in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. They are in the process of scheduling protests outside of Senate debates, arranging door-to-door canvassing, organizing candidate forums and town halls and doing polling on the issue. Another tactic they plan: inviting candidates to spend a day shadowing a low-wage worker on the job, and possibly exposing those who won’t do it.

Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats this November, while Democrats are defending 10. Democrats need to win at least five net seats to gain back control from Republicans, or four if Hillary Clinton wins the White House and Tim Kaine is elected vice president and can break tied Senate votes.

Some of the lawmakers the groups plan to target because of the lack of support they’ve shown for higher minimum wages are Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who is in a contest against Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, and Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, challenged by Democrat Jason Kander.

In Pennsylvania, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey could feel some heat from the groups in his race against Democrat Katie McGinty, who has repeatedly called for raising the federal minimum wage. And in Wisconsin, they will target Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in his contest with Democrat Russ Feingold, who has made raising the minimum wage a pivotal part of his campaign.

Marina Dimitrijevic, the state director of the Wisconsin Working Families Party, one of the grassroots groups involved, said the organization plans to bring a crowd to a mid-October debate between Sen. Johnson and Mr. Feingold. It will also invite Mr. Johnson to a roundtable discussion about raising minimum wages.

“I hope he comes and listens,” she said.

Read more from The Wall Street Journal.