A couple dozen people met at the home of Val and Scott Parsley in Madison on Thursday night to gather signatures and support for a proposed initiated measure aimed at raising South Dakota's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 per hour. The proposal would include an annual cost-of-living increase.
Zach Crago, executive director of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said the proposal is necessary at a time when wages have stagnated and CEO pay is 273 times higher than the average American worker's.
"South Dakotans want an economy that works for everyone," he said.
Crago said South Dakotans "show up, work hard, and never quit until the job is done. But for many hard-working families, the minimum wage isn't keeping up with the cost of living."
He told the group that putting money in the pockets of hard-working people "will grow our economy. Workers with more money will spend it on the things their families need every day. That generates new business and grows the economy. And a lot of folks will depend less on government assistance."
Quoting a 2012 Current Population Survey, Crago said that 62,000 working South Dakotans would see an increase in earnings if the minimum wage were increased.
"Seventy-eight percent of those folks are over the age 20, often with a family to support," he said.
He added that 55 percent of those who benefit are women.
Crago said 15,855 signatures of registered South Dakota voters must be obtained before Nov. 4 to put the matter on the general election ballot. He urged anyone wanting petitions to contact the state Democratic office in Sioux Falls.