Hardly a day goes by without a news story about the accelerating number of foreclosures, an economic tsunami that is causing chaos in the housing and stock markets, the banking industry, and the global money markets, not to mention upending families and neighborhoods. Business leaders, activist groups, and Democratic presidential candidates are calling for our government to do something before the situation declines even further. The problem is worsening in every part of the country, but two early primary states -- Florida and Nevada -- are among the hardest hit.
On November 7, voters in six states -- Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio -- approved measures to raise state minimum wage levels by $1 to $1.70 an hour and index them to inflation. These initiatives not only put more money into the pockets of low-income workers, they also increased voter turnout among urban and working class voters in key states, especially Missouri and Montana, where Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate won narrow victories that put the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress.
Last fall, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national community-organizing group, sent 39-year-old organizer Brian Kettenring to Florida to lead a project to register low-income voters for the November 2 election by mounting a referendum to raise the state's minimum wage to $6.15 an hour and index it yearly to inflation. The grass-roots campaign may affect the outcome of the presidential race in the largest (27 electoral votes) battleground state. If John Kerry beats George W. Bush in Florida on Tuesday, ACORN's minimum-wage campaign will deserve much of the credit.