Voter Turn-Out Program Focused on Raising the Minimum Wage to Kick Off in Key States

Polling shows minimum wage is a motivating issue for swing state voters

New report finds 27 million workers paid less than $15 reside in states with GOP senators who voted against wage hikes and whose seats are up in the 2016 elections

Top voter-mobilization organizations in nine states – including six states with closely watched U.S. Senate races – announced a massive grassroots canvassing operation to launch on Oct. 8. The program focuses on turning out voters around the urgent need to raise the minimum wage. Polling shows that raising the minimum wage commands strong bipartisan support, and voters are more likely to back candidates who favor raising the federal minimum wage.

Focused on bringing attention to candidate records on minimum wage in key senate races, scores of canvassers will knock on doors and talk to voters about the unprecedented opportunity to end Washington gridlock on raising the federal minimum wage. The effort comes as a new report from NELP Action shows that 27 million workers paid less than $15 live in states with Republican senators who voted against minimum wage hikes and whose seats are contested this year.

“For the 27 million workers who are paid less than $15 per hour in those states where Republican Senate seats are up in this election, it’s really not a question of what is keeping wages low—it is a question of who,” said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP Action.

The National Employment Law Project Action Fund, the Working Families Party and the Center for Popular Democracy Action Fund, along with labor and grassroots partners, pledged to knock on tens of thousands of doors over the weekend in the states with closely contested senate races including Arizona, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

In Arizona, as many as 500 canvassers and volunteers will be trained to knock on doors and talk to voters about the need to raise the wage, while 100 canvassers will in Philadelphia alone are expected to mobilize voters around raising pay.

Canvassers will also hit doors in Maine, Michigan and Vermont.

“We are bringing the movement for raising the minimum wage to the ballot box in November so that Russ Feingold can bring it to the halls of the U.S. Senate in the new Congress,” said Peter Rickman, Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Working Families Party. “Working class people are tired of Senators like Ron Johnson standing in the way of policies to reward hard work with fair pay. We are mobilizing and organizing working class people as voters to elect a Senator who will unrig this system and make the economy work for all of us, not just those at the top.”

The canvass comes as a new report from NELP Action examines how obstructionism on the issue by Republican senators has held down wages for millions of their own constituents. The report posits that “the 2016 elections offer a historic opportunity for working people to take decisive action at the ballot box to boost wages and working families’ incomes.”

Key findings in the report include:

  • 27 million workers who are paid less than $15 an hour live in the 24 states where Republican-held seats are up in 2016. This includes nearly 20 million who are paid less than $12 an hour.
  • Of the 21 states where the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25, 16 of them have Republican-held seats that are up in the 2016 elections.
  • Senate Republicans are siding with corporate lobbyists to deny new overtime pay guarantees to 12.5 million modestly-paid salaried workers. This includes 5.8 million in the 24 states where Republican-held Senate seats are up in 2016.

A late August poll by Public Policy Polling demonstrates the electoral potency of the minimum wage. In seven key swing states, support for incumbent Republican senators swung to Democratic challengers when respondents were made aware of their senator’s votes against the minimum wage. In Arizona, Missouri, and North Carolina that information allowed the Democratic challenger to pull ahead. A poll of underpaid workers by Harris Interactive and Yougov last year showed among registered voters paid less than $15, 65% are more likely to vote in the upcoming election if there is a candidate on the ballot who supports $15/hr and a union for all workers.

“For going on a decade, Republican senators like Pat Toomey have stood in the way of raising pay for families like mine,” said Melissa Hernandez, a group home worker who is volunteering on Saturday with Make the Road Pennsylvania. “I’m hitting the doors on Saturday to tell other underpaid workers that we have the power to break the gridlock in Washington – we just have to come out and use it at the ballot box on Nov. 8.”