Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin speaks to the media in Oklahoma City, September 3, 2013.
Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo

Oklahoma’s regressive approach to the minimum wage

Several states from coast to coast have given up waiting for Congress to act on the minimum wage and are instead acting on their own. Connecticut, Maryland, and Minnesota each recently approved wage hikes, while Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Vermont are poised to do the same.
 
Oklahoma, meanwhile, is also implementing a new statewide law on the minimum wage. But in this case, the Republican-led state is a very different approach. As Ned Resnikoff reported:
Oklahoma cities are now banned from raising their own minimum wages above the state level, thanks to a law signed by Republican Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday. The law will also prevent cities in Oklahoma from crafting their own mandatory paid sick day laws.
 
Oklahoma’s minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. The new law would stymie labor’s attempts to raise the minimum wage in Oklahoma City, where activists have been organizing around a proposed ballot initiative to raise the city-level minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
In contemporary conservatism, “local control” is an important principle. The right tends to believe the government that’s closest to the people – literally, geographically – is best able to respond to the public’s needs.
 
Except, of course, when local government considers progressive measures Republicans don’t like, at which point it’s time to intervene and snuff local control out.
 
Wait, it gets slightly worse.
 
Bryce Covert noted that Fallin doesn’t seem to know enough about the policy she’s now implementing.
Fallin said she signed the bill out of the worry that higher local minimum wages “would drive businesses to other communities and states, and would raise prices for consumers.” She also argued that “most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry level jobs” and that “many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.” She warned that increasing the minimum wage “would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers” and harm job creation.
 
But that’s not what the typical American minimum wage worker looks like. Nearly 90 percent of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the wage are older than 20, while the average age is 35. More than a quarter have children to support. More than half work full time, and 44 percent have at least some college education, while half a million minimum wage workers are college graduates.
These are probably details the governor should have been aware of before the bill signing.
 

Minimum Wage and Oklahoma

Oklahoma's regressive approach to the minimum wage