Chafee on the Minimum Wage

"I’ve always voted to raise the minimum wage. We raised it as governor in Rhode Island twice. And I’ve always supported social programs that build the middle class. I Have a 30-year record of votes in favor of good social programs, beneficial social programs that help people, especially in the middle class."

On Friday, July 24, 2015 in an interview on PBS with Tavis Smiley
Sources: PBS (with video and transcript), OnTheIssues (including a summary of Chafee's record on minimum wage)

The Context: Much of Chafee's interview with Smiley discusses his record on social issues and his history as a one-time Republican. He describes his party change as the result of the fact that the GOP "party moved away from [him]." Regardless of his party, Chafee reiterates that his record on social, environmental, fiscal, and foreign issues has not changed. On these issues, Chafee walks a moderate line holding stances on several specific questions that are common to each (but not both) major party. 

With his reassurance that he is a sufficient Democrat, Chafee specifically cites his record on the minimum wage because (at least, in part) it often draws a line in the political sand. Which side of that line a politician chooses—and how that stance is discussed in public—can align a candidate with big labor or big corporations, with the struggles of the working poor or the struggles of small business. 

Several individual cities have enacted their own minimum wage laws, often motivated by the high costs of living particular to urban areas. The motivations behind minimum wage laws in states are different. In addition to the politics of the issue, individual states' laws and debates on the minimum wage are also a forum for discussing states' rights and our federalism more generally. As a result of all this, many states have complex definitions of what comprises the "minimum," which may fluctuate with cost-of-living indices, the federal minimum wage, or the size and revenue of individual employers. Still other states have opted to separate the employee positions subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act entirely from the scope of their wage laws. 

Right now, the federal hourly minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, which at first glance would suggest an even minimum lowest threshold across the country. Given how many political issues are included in a debate on set wages, however, we asked

How much does the minimum wage and the laws that determine it vary from state to state?