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SD Democrats Launch Ballot Measure to Raise Minimum Wage to $8.50

Want a vote? Want a raise? Vote Democratic!

Once again the South Dakota Democratic Party is demonstrating its belief in workers and small-d democracy. This morning, Dems interim exec Zach Crago joined the South Dakota AFL-CIO and the Teamsters in launching a statewide petition drive to place on our 2014 ballot a measure to increase the minimum wage to $8.50, with yearly cost-of-living increases.

That's still less than the $9 President Obama says he's looking for, a level that would restore the minimum wage back to the real purchasing power it had in 1979 before Reaganomics threw the working class overboard. But for the South Dakota workers who are propping up the state's vaunted business climate with their ill-recompensed sweat, it seems a fair gesture in the right direction.

Crago says the party needs to roust up 1,000 volunteers and $40,000 to place this initiated measure on the ballot. The party will need to submit 15,855 signatures from registered South Dakota voters to the Secretary of State by November 4 of this year.

Let's see: mobilizing a statewide volunteer base around a core Democratic issue that will raise awareness and appeal to working folks and Independent voters? Sounds like a heck of an idea to me! Let's bang on some doors and round up signatures!

Here are the key quotes from the press release:

South Dakota Democratic Party interim Executive Director Zach Crago: "South Dakotans know our economy is stronger when we reward honest work with honest wages. Our local businesses grow from customers with more money in their pockets to spend on things they need. And working South Dakotans with honest wages depend less on government assistance. In short, raising South Dakota's minimum wage is a step towards building an economy that works for everyone."

South Dakota's AFL-CIO President Mark Anderson: "South Dakotans believe in hard work. The South Dakota work ethic is just part of our DNA. But for many working South Dakotans, the minimum wage hasn't kept up with the rising cost of housing, food, and gas. When CEO pay has never been higher, raising the minimum wage promotes fairness for working families who want a shot at the middle class."

Teamsters Local 120 representative Brad Jenkins: "Raising South Dakota's minimum wage is about working people standing with working people. Everyone wins when hard working people have a little more money to spend at local businesses that create jobs for our growing economy. We're excited to be part of this effort to make South Dakota a land of opportunity for all working families."

Petition language will be available after the Attorney General has reviewed the Democratic Party's submitted documents.


  1. MJL 2013.07.17

    This is a brilliant move. Not only could you add a lot of younger voters to turn out for the polls next November, but you should also bring voter registration forms and could add several more Democrats. I signed and look forward to getting some signatures.

  2. Jana 2013.07.17

    Oh, and don't forget that the GOP is:
    - raising rates on student loans
    - Jacked tuition and fees to new levels
    - and for the 39th time has tried to get young people booted off of their parents health insurance adding yet another new expense for those just starting out that can least afford it. Let alone on minimum wage.

  3. Rick 2013.07.17

    With John Thune and Kristi Noem seeking to erase your right to overtime pay, this is good positioning. My question is if this is good timing and a good tactic leading to a winning strategy.

    Is there money and a broad, bi-partisan coalition to fund a great idea without handing the Chamber of Commerce a gun to shoot it down as a cabal of "job-killing leftists, socialists and big union bosses?" Judging by past episodes, the opposition will have very deep pockets, they will steal your language and use it back on you, and they be very well disciplined in message and organization. They've become very proficient at it.

    This needed to be rolled out as a great idea with broad, deep support to prevent the opponents brushing it off as desparate, misguided politics from a dying state party. I thought Troy Jones' recent critique of the state Democratic Party was correct about the party's over-use of initiative and referendum. It should be used rarely and only when it adds value to the overall effort to strengthen the organization and its objectives.

    Removing sales tax from food was a great idea that was truly needed and would have benefitted everyone. Having a great, needed idea doesn't automatically win an election.

  4. MJL 2013.07.17

    Rick, I disagree. This can be a wise move, if it is handled correctly. You can't just rely on the single initiative to drive a few more voters out. That will fail, but if you can also use this to help register more Democrats and begin to bring up the numbers of young voters, you can start building on something. This issue is going to mostly impact younger people in South Dakota. The college students, the just graduated from high school, and with 12,000 people in SD that are getting paid at or below the minimum wage, it could start providing a strong foothold in building up Dems numbers.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2013.07.17

    Why do they need $40,000 if they get a 1000 volunteers?

    An increase in minimum wage might get some people off welfare, or does the welfare income level increase with it?

  6. Jenny 2013.07.17

    Although this has good intentions, SD's working poor couldn't possibly be deserving of a wage increase. Times are hard and they should just be thankful they have jobs and that they live like kings compared to the rest of the world's poor (says the GOP). Business owners will suffer and will have to raise prices and lay off workers. Has the SD democrat party lost their mind? We don't go for living wages here in Dakota.

  7. Winston 2013.07.17

    This is a great idea! Initiatives and referendums in the absence of legislators give the Democrats the air support they need to soften the Republican landscape void of Democratic troops.

    Democrats need to consecrate on candidates too, but its easy for anyone to try to fiat that short-term dream when in reality that struggle is actually long term. The initiative/referendum strategy was born out of a lack of candidates and Democratic relevancy and not as an alternative approach. Initiatives and referendums, when successful, will give future Democratic candidates something to talk about that will be on the publics' minds and useful for Democratic candidates......

  8. James Snyder 2013.07.17

    I'm always amazed by the demand for higher "minimum wage." As soon as America realizes that if you want to be paid more make yourself necessary for higher wage you'll get higher wage. As long as you aren't...."the world needs ditch diggers too."

    NO American deserves a living wage or set amount. That is not how a free market works. Stupid.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.17

    James, let me check: I'm seriously considering digging ditches for my next job. Suppose I get such a job. I dig like a son of a gun, full-time, 40 hours a week. I dig ditches deep and straight and stable, just the way the boss needs 'em. How much do I deserve for that work? $7.25 an hour? $8.50? $10? $20?

    Or if you'd rather not get bogged down in numbers, try this: for a full day's work, do I deserve a full day's food, water, shelter, and electricity for my needs? For my needs and my wife's? For my whole family's needs? How much work should I have to do to provide for my family... or just to keep them out of poverty and welfare eligibility?

  10. Donald Pay 2013.07.17

    I don't have a problem with the issue (increasing the minimum wage) or using the initiative to obtain a vote on that issue. If there are grassroots people who want to lead the effort, I'm all for it. But having a political party lead it is just awful from a number of different perspectives. Driving turnout is not what the initiative is meant for. If unions or political parties want to support a grassroots effort to increase the minimum wage, that's fine. The problem is using the initiative on an important issue like this shouldn't be a political stunt.

    It would be far better if the effort was led by near minimum wage workers, though, than by a political party whose main emphasis seems more on driving turnout.

  11. rasqual 2013.07.17

    Hmm. The 2011 study isn't the latest analysis.

    For my part, I find it self-evident that fewer jobs will be created. Either that, or cost of goods and services will rise.

    There's a class of citizens who imagine there's free lunch to be had -- force employers to raise wages and their products and services will magically remain low.

    In the grocery world, for example, this seems especially foolish. Margins are already quite low. Increasing cost of business will inevitably lead to higher food prices -- which will be paid by the folks getting the higher wage.

    I don't understand folks who don't understand that, I really don't.

  12. Jeff Barth 2013.07.17

    Freeing the slaves was bad for business and some slaves became unemployed.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.18

    On Rasq's post-date argument:

    (1) The link he provides cites no analysis newer than 2011.

    (2) The linkOwen provides at 12:09 includes a meta-analysis from Schmitt Feb 2013.

    (2a) Schmitt 2013 includes the study from Sabia et al. 2012.

    On Rasq's statement that his conclusions are self-evident, I note only that declaring certain truths to be self-evident has perviously signaled that folks are done talking and are going to start shooting (see Jefferson, 1776).

    On higher prices: quasi-hokum. Raise wages for folks at the low end of the economic spectrum and you—

    (1) boost consumption, as folks at that low end spend more of their paycheck than folks at the high end;

    (2) create jobs, as other businesses hire to meet that increased consumption;

    (3) save taxpayers money by raising more workers out of poverty and off public assistance.

  14. interested party 2013.07.18

    In the event this thing passes what prevents the legislature from repealing or weakening it? How would raising the minimum wage affect the Spanish-speakers now doing all the dairy work in Brookings County?

  15. interested party 2013.07.18

    Organizing the Spanish-speakers would affect dairy prices: why do producers reliant on antibiotics and bovine growth hormone want to keep prices low?

  16. El Rayo X 2013.07.18

    Q: What do you call a Teamster in a suit?
    A: Indicted.
    Come's a joke, lighten' up.

  17. interested party 2013.07.18

    Q: What does SDGOP call a farm worker killed by pesticides?
    A: Self-deported.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.07.18

    True, Larry, the Legislature could chuck or monkey with any initiated law. But note that Dems won on two referenda last year, and the GOP-dominated Legislature mostly respected the voters' wishes and avoided reversing their will. Those votes gave House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff leverage to make positive changes on the economic development bill passed this year.

  19. Richard Schriever 2013.07.18

    Amazing to me how the "conservatives" always refer to "the free market" of supply and demand as if there is only a simple straight-line, one variable way of looking at economics. What that really tells me is they don't truly understand economics at all.

    First of their is no such thing as a completely "free" market. In the US and 99.99% of the rest of the world, ALL markets are more or less regulated/modulated.

    Second, even the most basic of economic calculations recognizes that there are supply/demand forces at work in BOTH SIDES of the jobs/labor equation.

    As to ditch diggers - they have machines that do that now-a-days. Welcome to the 21st century James.

  20. interested party 2013.07.18

    Sioux Falls and Santa Fe are similar in many ways:

    "Minimum-wage employees in the city of Santa Fe currently earn $10.51 an hour, the second-highest such wage in the country behind San Francisco. Minimum wage workers in the county make $7.50 an hour, the rate mandated by state law.

    The chamber argues that Santa Fe’s living wage ordinance has increased unemployment and the local cost of living, and hurt job prospects for young people.

    Advocates of a higher minimum wage, including Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, counter that Santa Fe has actually experienced recent job growth, and that the city has a lower unemployment rate than other New Mexico metropolitan areas and the state as a whole."

  21. Douglas Wiken 2013.07.18

    Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    I suspect a higher minimum wage helps an economy, but it may be that higher employment makes possible a higher minimum wage.

  22. PNR 2013.07.18

    You raise the price, you sell less. It's a pretty universal cause/effect and to pretend that it does not affect labor markets is silly. It does.

    Yes, there are other factors which impact labor markets and unemployment rates, and there is elasticity in the labor market, too. But the fact remains that if you increase the price of something, you will sell less of it, and that applies to labor as to widgets.

    Some of that will show up in people losing jobs. Most, as this paper indicates (, will come in people not hired in the first place. The guy already working at 7-11 will likely keep his job. The guy who needs a job, however, won't get hired.

    And the people who are affected most (as this 2012 study by the World Bank of minimum wages in Indonesia indicates - are less educated, non-factory workers and those fighting a cultural bias - in the case of this study, women:

    "The employment effects of minimum wages are significant and negative among small firms and less educated workers, but not among large firms and workers with high school education and above. The negative employment impact is more severe for non-production workers than for production workers. The analysis also shows that the minimum wage disproportionally affects women..."

  23. interested party 2013.07.18

    North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota kill more workers than all the blue states combined.

  24. PNR 2013.07.18

    If, Jana, you're thinking a 30-year-old father of three with his wife taking care of the kids, then no, he can't make it on minimum wage. But a 15-year-old working summers and after school while covered by his parents' insurance surely can.

    One must also see that minimum wage job as a kind of internship. I started off with sub-minimum wage jobs as a kid. They were a valuable part of my education. If, 38 years later, I were still trying to make it on that pay - even adjusted for inflation - yeah, that would not be good. One of the reasons I'm not, though, is that there were jobs like that available for me when I was 11.

    The minimum wage is the bottom rung on the ladder, and if this is enacted, it will just push that rung further up making it harder to start climbing. But nobody expects to stay on that bottom rung.

  25. Jerry 2013.07.18

    $8.50 is a start, but 10 bucks an hour should be the minimum. 400 bucks a week, then you take out for social security and for medicare and that leaves a pretty good chunk out for the government. The rest would go into the local economy so it would be a win win. Why is this so difficult to see?

  26. interested party 2013.07.18

    and jesus said: let them eat alpo.

  27. rasqual 2013.07.18

    Jerry: Why not $15?

    Cory: (1)(2a) No, the Neumark et al. paper also cites the 2012 Sabia work. The commentary I linked to did not, but that's not surprising since it's a very brief commentary on the paper.

    The Schmitt and Neumark papers are effectively contemporary, as far as I can see, citing much the same work.

    (2) D'oh! Noted it and immediately forgot it. Mea culpa.

    Cory, I think you forgot an added benefit of (1). If you invoke wage compression, then management is incrementally closer to the low end and will spend more of their paycheck as well. ;-)

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