What a month for the Green Mountain State. on March 18th, the VermontCatamounts stunned heavily favored Syracuse for their first NCAAtournament win in the team’s 100-year history. And, on the day before UVM’s historic win, working Vermonters enjoyed an even more meaningful sweet victory, as the state legislature gave preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $7.25 per hour by 2006 and automatically increase it in years to come.
Boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country–despite its already high (by national standards) minimum wage of $7 per hour–Vermont offers further proof that a higher minimum wage doesn’t negatively impact the job market.
Vermont wasn’t the only state to see a minimum wage boost last week. On March 14th, New Jersey voted to increase its minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 over the next two years. This is a dramatic improvement compared with the last time New Jersey raised the minimum wage–in 1999–by only ten cents.
It has been eight years since the last federal minimum wage increase (nine years is the longest the country has ever gone without an increase), and so states have begun to take up the cause on their own. Vermont and New Jersey are only the latest examples; last year we highlighted New York’s increase, and there are currently twenty-two other states that have either introduced or are preparing bills calling for a higher state minimum wage.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)has been a pivotal force in these fights. “As Congress continues to fail to address this issue, we are seeing a surge in organizing among ACORN, labor, and other activist groups,” says Jen Kern, Director of ACORN’s Living Wage Resource Center. “What happened in Vermont and Jersey is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a trend…this is a grassroots response to years of congressional inaction.”
We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by emailing to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, we’re particularly interested in any creative antiwar protests that take place this weekend.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker, and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.