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Virtual Forum To Discuss Merits, Difficulties Of Raising Wyoming's Minimum Wage

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A bill seeking to raise Wyoming's minimum wage to $15 an hour was recently killed by the state legislature. But that doesn't mean the "fight for $15" is going away.The Southeast Wyoming Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are hosting a virtual forum on Thursday, March 11, to discuss and make the case for raising the minimum wage. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25, Wyoming's minimum wage is $5.15.

The effort to raise the state minimum wage mirrors the national debate about the federal minimum wage, in which progressives argue that the current minimum of less than $8 an hour falls far short of what people and families need to survive.

Matt Stannard with the Southeast Wyoming DSA said Wyoming is no exception.

"Wyoming's minimum wage is tied for lowest in the country with Georgia," he said. "If you've lived here any length of time and really interacted with working people in Wyoming, and particularly in rural areas, you know that people cannot afford good places to live."

Forum attendees will hear from local organizers, as well as Wyoming State Sen. Mike Gierau and Seattle "Fight for $15" organizer Jason Call.

The failed state bill, HB 206, received support exclusively from Democrats, but Stannard said depressed wages are an issue for many residents and hopes a similar bill can be introduced next year.

"There needs to be a new way of doing politics here," he said. "For too long, we have accepted the inevitably of this conservative-dominated conversation."

Nationally, the topic of raising the minimum wage was given renewed interest as Congress and commentators debated adding a raise to the latest COVID-19 relief bill. Ultimately, the raise was not included in the bill passed by both chambers.

Amid this discussion, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office conducted a study and found that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 would reduce employment by 1.4 million people, but would raise nearly 1 million people out of poverty and increase federal revenue by reducing reliance on safety net programs like nutrition assistance.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition found a minimum wage is insufficient for living as a rental tenant in Wyoming. Their report estimates that a Wyoming resident would need to make $15.15 per hour - or work 76 hours per week at the current minimum wage - to afford a one-bedroom rental.

The virtual forum will take place Thursday evening and is free to attend. More details can be found on the Facebook event page.

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