In 19 states, local governments are now forbidden from raising wages for their lowest-paid workers.
But a ballot win in America’s most populous state would do more than just raise pay. It would demonstrate one way to overcome a highly successful tactic used by industry groups and conservative lawmakers to roll back local wage increases: the passing of statewide laws that forbid towns and cities from raising the minimum wage.
So-called preemption laws, prohibiting local lawmakers from raising city minimums, have been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative, industry-backed nonprofit. On Monday, Idaho became the latest state to pass such a law, and much of the language of the bill — banning “political subdivisions” of the state from lifting pay for workers — is identical to draft legislation prepared by ALEC.
Eighteen other states now have comparable laws on the books, according to the National Employment Law Project, a left-leaning advocacy group. Many were passed swiftly and quietly in recent months, in states with cities where worker groups and labor-friendly local governments are pushing to raise wages.