Labor organizations, non-profit groups and some small business owners have joined forces to take yet another run at convincing state legislators to overturn a 1999 state law that bars local governments from setting their own minimum wages.
The goal of the Unleashed Local campaign that was launched on Monday is to clear a path to increase the minimum wage in Louisiana.
Louisiana is one of five states that doesn't set a minimum wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The other states are Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. In the absence of a statewide standard, Louisiana employers must pay their employers at least $7.25 an hour, the federal minimum.
A coalition of grassroots groups and leaders have been lobbying state leaders for at least the past five years to lift families out of poverty through an across-the board wage increase. However, each previous attempt has failed.
"What we’re doing differently this time is really bringing to bear the voices of people from around the state; to get people to engage with their legislators about how important this is," said Ashley Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition.
She said a poll the group did with LSU in 2015 found that 76 percent of people in state want to raise the minimum wage, adding that they are trying to "honor the will of the people."
State law currently prevents local authorities from setting standards for pay and other employee benefits.
Shelton said the coalition, which crowded the steps of City Hall Monday to announce their campaign before the upcoming Legislative session, hopes to see a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour.
The dream goal, she said, would be wages of $16 an hour to ensure families with children can effectively have access to a better quality of life, including being able to afford healthcare.
Pushback against upping the minimum wage has come from business and industry leaders who argue that local wages should be determined by market forces, not mandated by government.
Kelly Bienn, a spokeswoman for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, said raising the minimum wage in Louisiana would mean an additional expense for business owners, "making it more difficult to hire new workers and potentially forcing a reduction in existing jobs."
"BRAC maintains that it is in the best interest of employers to pay competitive wages to recruit a highly skilled and talented workforce," Bienn said.