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Minimum wage fight goes on tour

The minimum wage has become a hot-button issue for people in low-wage jobs and lawmakers around the country

As the battle over raising the minimum wage continues nationwide, advocates of an increase are taking their fight on the road. 

Americans United for Change, a liberal advocacy group, is kicking off the “Give America a Raise” bus tour on Monday in Bangor, Maine, and will tour 18 cities in the Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic as the group calls for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“Raising the minimum wage would provide a needed boost, not just for the millions of struggling low-wage American workers that can barely survive on $7.25, but for the U.S. economy as a whole,” Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, said in a release. “It will create jobs because it puts more money in the pockets of workers who will quickly inject it back into the economy.”

President Barack Obama has made the issue a major focus of his second term, signing an executive order in February to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for all federal contractors.

While the increase only affects new contracts, it will still raise the wages of about 250,000 workers. The majority of those workers are in janitorial roles or employed in concession stands.

Raising the minimum wage has become a contentious national issue. Many Republicans are staunchly opposed to a raise. They say any increase would result in businesses hiring fewer people. Democrats, meanwhile, say it would put money back into the economy by giving low-wage workers more discretionary income to spend in their communities.

Eleven states increased their minimum wages at the beginning of 2014. Those states are being watched closely as the intense national debate continues and as many politicians facing tough re-elections where minimum wage is a pivotal issue.

Some cities have also moved to increase their minimum wage even more than states. The San Francisco City Council voted Thursday to increase the city's minimum wage to $12.30 an hour by 2017, up from its current rate of $10.74. San Jose has a minimum wage of $10.15 an hour. 

Washington, D.C. has the highest minimum wage in the country: $11.50 an hour. 

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released a report last month showing that gradually raising the minimum wage from it’s current levels to $10.10 by 2016 would lead to higher wages for more than 16.5 million workers, but would lead to a loss of about 500,000 jobs, higher costs for business owners and higher prices for consumers.

Many advocacy organizations supporting the minimum wage hike, however, argued that the central CBO finding of a decrease in jobs for low-wage earners was off-base.

“The effect of raising the minimum wage is one of the most thoroughly studied topics in modern economics, and the vast majority of the more than 1,000 estimates contained in studies dating back to 1972 show no significant adverse effects on employment,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, a progressive group that has long advocated for a higher minimum wage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.5 million people earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2013. That number does not include workers paid a state minimum wage.

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