Minimum Wage Fight Just Got a Powerful New Ally

The nationwide effort for a $15 minimum wage has made significant gains in the past year, with victories in major cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and partially, New York State. But for much of the country, the idea of a $15 minimum wage remains elusive. One large California-based service union aims to change this by launching a fund to campaign for higher minimum wage ballot measures in several states in the lead-up to the 2016 November election.

The Fairness Project, which launches today, aims to "bolster state-based ballot initiative campaigns and [drive] a national narrative to elevate issues of economic fairness." In addition to pushing for ballot measures for higher minimum wages, the effort is expected to be a boon to broader Democratic Party turn-out efforts. In a recent Huffington Post editorial, executive director Ryan Johnson insisted that waiting for the U.S. Congress to act was unwise, and that a targeted effort with state-by-state ballot initiatives was the best approach: 

Still, Congress and state legislatures refuse to act. Paralyzed by partisan disagreement, time and time again our elected officials have turned their back on common sense economic policy that would benefit working families. In the face of this inaction, we have a powerful tool at our disposal to make change: the ballot initiative.

The Fairness Project, along with our state-based partners, plans to harness the power of the ballot initiative, push forward economic policies that are supported by the majority of citizens and improve the lives of millions of Americans across multiple states.

According to the Washington Post, the group's main backer, SEIU's United Healthcare Workers local in California, is planning on recruiting other unions to back the effort. Part of the Fairness Project's pitch to local unions is that it will help revitalize their public image.

"This is the best value in American politics,” SEIU-UHW president Dave Regan told the Post. “If you can amass $25 million, you can put a question in front of half the country that simply can’t be moved through legislatures because of big money in politics.” The group has gained only a couple million of its $25 million goal but with the launch today it anticipates more funding. 

The campaign will target California, Maine and Washington D.C., with other locales to follow. The group claims the effort could improve the lives of up to 3.5 million workers. 

h/t Wonk Blog

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