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States become key battleground in the minimum wage fight

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,Human Resources

It may be the Year of the Dog on the Chinese calendar, but it's shaping up to be the year of the "living wage" in many states. Already, 17 states and the District of Columbia have legislated higher minimums than the federal $5.15 per hour rate. And more states are expected to do the same.

What's behind the legislative push? Labor unions and activists are frustrated with their wage hike efforts in Congress, which last raised the federal minimum wage in 1997. Seeing little headway in Congress, they've set their sights on state legislatures instead.

One key battleground state: Ohio, where organized labor wants to place the issue on the ballot. Similar efforts in Nevada and Florida were successful. And in California, Gov. Schwarzenegger is expected to push for a $1-per-hour increase to forestall a ballot initiative that would raise it even higher.

Tip: Even if your organization is based in a state with a higher minimum wage, this year may see an effort to raise it further. Be alert to legislative efforts and budget accordingly. Good sources of information are your chamber of commerce or the National Conference of State Legislatures (www.ncsl.org).

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