Utah Democrats Call for Raise in State Minimum Wage

Utah Democrats Call for Raise in State Minimum Wage

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Salt Lake County democrats have called for a 2006 ballot referendum to set a statewide minimum wage of $7 per hour.

The rate is $1.85 higher that the federal minimum wage. The issue got the full support of attendees at the Democrat's annual county convention Saturday.

Organized labor groups and anti-poverty organizations support the measure. But Democrats also want the endorsement of state religious leaders as well as the public and eventually, legislators.

"We want religious organizations to endorse it," said Kent Anderson, head of the Communications Workers of America Local 7704.

Anderson said faith-based groups should support the effort since they often deal with the impacts of poverty induced by low wages. Advocates say low wages are the leading cause of indigence in Utah.

The Hispanic caucus also supports the measure, stating in a resolution that minorities are typically disproportionately paid the minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $5.15 since 1997.

To get the issue on the 2006 ballot, two-thirds of both houses of the state Legislature would need to approve it. To become law, a majority of votes would also need to approve.

If a referendum fails, Anderson said a ballot initiative might be sought.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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