Voters, the Republican campaign to overturn your will on the minimum wage has begin. Today, Representative Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) filed House Bill 1094, which would repeal one small provision of the minimum-wage increase that you wrote into law by passing Initiated Measure 18 less than three months ago. HB 1094 removes the sentence, "In no case shall the minimum wage be decreased," from SDCL 60-11.3.2, the annual inflation adjustment included in Initiated Measure 18.
Republicans are trying to gain a foothold on a pretty big hill. They know they can't come storming out and advocate repealing the whole thing. They know they'd get strung up at the next crackerbarrel by attentive voters. Rep. Bolin and his conservative pals Reps. Brunner, May, Novstrup, and Stalzer and Senator Lederman are tackling what may be the most easily opposable portion of the plan. "Well, if we're going to adjust for inflation," they'll say, "isn't it only fair that the adjustment follow that rate regardless of whether it's positive or negative?"
Prepare for that argument, and prepare to reject it. The ratchet clause (allowing adjustment up but not down) is far from unfair. It helps us catch up with how much purchasing power the minimum wage has lost over decades of neglect and exploitation. We still have a long way to go before our minimum wage catches up with the family poverty level. I don't think it's unreasonable to leave in place a mechanism that ensures our lowest-paid workers don't lose ground.
But watch out: when the Republicans get tired of losing that argument, they'll angle for other amendments. A friendly observer of all things Legislative warns that Republicans may slide the current version of HB 1094 through the House, then amend it in the Senate. Then they'll send HB 1094 to conference committee, where they'll break out the big knives, safe from the opportunity from public testimony at regular committee hearings and crackerbarrel hell-raising.
Watch House Bill 1094, folks. Watch its House committee assignment (not posted yet), and be ready to vibrate those committee members' phones right out of their pockets. Tell your legislators, very simply, to leave the minimum wage alone this year and let the voters' will stand.
Related Reading: Pat Powers mewls that the Democratic minimum-wage increase (yes, do keep reminding people that we Dems brought that initiative forward; we will happily take the credit!) is hurting students by forcing the SDSU Student Union to cut its hours.
Yup. The SDSU Student Union is covering $30,000 in wage increases by closing the Union two hours earlier, at 10 p.m. instead of midnight. By closing "early," the Union will save $6,000 on utilities. The only "service" students are using is the ability to sit in that building with pretty much no one around: nothing was open from 10 to midnight but the building itself—no food service, nothing else. Union manager Jenn Novotny says there are usually only a "handful" of students hanging around the Union past ten. The "early" close is temporary, for just this semester; Union management will see how budgeting goes for FY2016 and decide whether demand justifies restoring those late hours.
So for the price of a couple dark hours in a mostly empty Union, we get $30,000 in wage increases. Sounds like a fair trade to me.