successful minimum wage campaign

colist at colist at
Thu Nov 4 08:21:30 CST 2004

[ed:  my message yesterday was partly a response to Peter's post below.]

From: "Peter Dreier" <dreier at>

In the midst of the national train wreck, here's some good news -- and 
perh aps some political lessons -- out of Florida.
 According to this morning's Miami Herald and Tampa Tribune, Florida 
voters approved, by a 72% to 28% margin (4.95 million to 1.96 million), 
the statew ide ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage by one 
dollar an hour , to $6.15/hour (and index it to inflation) -- sponsored 
by ACORN with a br oad coalition of unions and others liberal groups -- 
despite the united opp osition (and heavy spending) by the state's big 
business community.;
 This margin was much higher than the very slim (and still counting) 
margin for Republican Mel Martinez over Democrat Betty Castor for 
Florida's open U S Senate seat The Tampa Tribune shows Martinez with a 
lead of slightly less than 1 percen tage point - about 68,000 votes out 
of 6.85 million cast - with 98.3 percen t of the state's precincts 
reporting). Bush beat Kerry in Florida by slight ly more than 300,000 

 Obviously, many Floridians, including many middle class voters, who 
voted f or Bush and Martinez also voted to raise the minimum wage.  
Florida saw a s ignificant increase in turnout among low-income and 
working class voters, a s well as African American and Latino voters, in 
Florida -- thanks to a gra ssroots voter registration and GOTV campaign 
by the coalition of liberal an d progressive groups -- but it wasn't 
sufficient to beat Bush and (probably ) Martinez.
1. Americans are NOT divided about the economy. Appeals for economic 
justic e and improving the economic fortunes of the bottom half of the 
economic la dder -- raising wages, expanding jobs, providing health 
insurance for all -
- resonate with many middle class voters. Had Kerry put more emphasis on 
th ese issues, they might have trumped more divisive cultural issues 
(abortion , gay marriage), the devastating war in Iraq, and Karl Rove's 
successful ef fort to portray Kerry as a flip-flopping ultra-liberal 
with a controversial
 military record.
2. Despite the significant increase in voter turnout among the 
have-nots, t he overall turnout rate among poor, working class and 
minority voters (in F lorida, Ohio, and other swing states) was still 
much lower than it should a nd could be, especially when compared to 
turnout rates among more affluent voters, including evangelicals (whose 
churches did a great job of mobilizin g voters). There are no quick 
fixes for this. Despite the incredibly good w ork of the liberal-labor 
527 groups, even more emphasis on voter registrati on and GOTV is 
needed. Also, as more Hispanic immigrants become naturalized , register 
to vote, and turn out to vote, the political balance may shift i n some 
of the key swing states, including NM, Ohio, Pennsylvania.
 That's all for now.
Peter Dreier
Dr. E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics
Director, Urban & Environmental Policy Program
Occidental College
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041
Phone: (323) 259-2913
FAX: (323) 259-2734

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