Is Maggie Hassan (NH) about to cost Raphael Warnock (GA) his Senate seat?
The answer is, quite likely, yes. How? By personally blocking the $15 minimum wage bill that Sen. Warnock ran on – and that exit polls show he won on. To add insult to injury, Hassan patently refuses to offer an alternative to the bill that has already passed in the House.
The result of her intransigence is the status quo – $2.13 an hour for tipped workers and $7.25 for everyone else, which translates into a whopping $15,000 a year for full time work. Hassan, along with seven of her Democratic colleagues, seems to believe state-sanctioned poverty is a winning political message. We disagree.
Raising the minimum wage would put money directly into the pockets of low-wage workers, which make up 44% of the entire workforce in the country. What other issue in the American political landscape offers even close to that kind of return?
And it is wildly popular with just about everybody – including the MAJORITY of REPUBLICAN working class voters.
A bipartisan majority of no fewer than 62% of Americans supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15, and, if anything, that number undersells how popular this issue is. Over the last 20 years, 100% of ballot initiatives that have raised state minimum wages have passed, including in extremely conservative red states like Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. In 2018, Sen. Tom Cotton won reelection the same year Arkansas passed a $12 minimum. In 2020, the year Trump won Florida by 6 points, a $15 minimum wage ballot initiative passed in the state by 10.
Democrats are facing a brutal Senate map in November. But in an odd twist, tough economic conditions driven by inflation actually make the case for this policy change. When Americans can’t keep up with higher prices but are still leaving low wage jobs in droves, it’s time for the federal government to step in and raise the wage floor for everyone.
If Democrats want any chance to salvage what could be a disastrous election, they need to have something real, substantial, and impactful to sell to voters. The minimum wage is exactly that issue. Essentially all of the competitive 2022 Senate races, and virtually the entire swing state map for the 2024 presidential election, run straight through $7.25 states like Georgia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Despite all this, there are eight Democratic Senators in 6 states who refuse to support a $15 minimum wage. Here are their names, and a little more about their stated positions:
- Maggie Hassan (NH): refuses to address tipped wage in large part based on her relationship with Tom Boucher, a wealthy New Hampshire restauranter
- Jeanne Shaheen (NH): widely believed to be holding this position because she doesn’t want to undercut Hassan during her reelection campaign
- Jon Tester (MT): Montana is already a One Fair Wage state (no lower tipped wage) but Tester thinks $15 is too high
- Joe Manchin (WV): claims to be open to a deal for $11 and 50% on tips
- Kyrsten Sinema (AZ): claims to be working on a compromise with Mitt Romney (Arizona’s minimum wage is already $12.80)
- Chris Coons (DE): Biden’s best friend in the Senate. His refusal to support this bill leads us to believe the WH is not as committed to the issue as it should be
- Tom Carper (DE): will sponsor the bill if Biden asks
- Angus King (ME): an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, King has stated flexibility on the issue and could get to a deal.
We have met with staff of each of these eight Senators, and they simply cannot credibly justify their position. In one memorable meeting, a very senior staffer for one of them said, “We don’t pay attention to data. $15 just feels too high.”
Unfortunately, this kind of anti-worker stance isn’t anything new for the Democratic party. It follows a long and shameful tradition of Democratic operatives cashing out and making American workers’ lives worse. Just look at some of the worst sellouts from the Obama Administration:
- Sean Kennedy, the former special assistant to President Obama for legislative affairs, is now the chief lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association. In the strange bedfellows category, we should note that his wife, Ashley Flanagan Kennedy, is one of the chief fundraisers for Senators Hassan, Manchin, and Sinema.
- Robert Gibbs, Obama’s Press Secretary, cashed in on his time in the White House by becoming the Executive Vice President and Global Communications Chief for one of the most notoriously exploitative and anti-worker corporations in the world, McDonald’s.
- David Plouffemade a name for himself as Obama’s campaign manager and Senior Advisor. He then used those credentials, built by Democratic voters, to become the Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy at Uber, a company that has undermined basic worker protections at every turn and classified their workers as independent contractors to avoid giving them proper compensation, benefits, and protections.
Enough is enough. Democrats need to do better to earn the trust of working people, and that should start with passing a minimum wage bill. Some may say there’s no point in focusing on this issue because they won’t get 10 votes from Republicans in order to actually pass it, but that’s not necessarily true. Republicans can read polls too, and the $15 passage in Florida in particular has left many of them on the fence about a minimum wage increase. They may not be on board with what Congress should actually do ($15 with no subminimum tipped wage), but there’s a middle ground out there that can make some Senate Republicans switch sides on this issue. Democrats just need to find it.
In what promises to be a tough midterm environment, Democrats need something tangible to show voters that they have their backs. They have to put forward a bill to raise the minimum wage and they have to vote for it. If they don’t, they will lose in November. And they will deserve it.