Around the World Day of Social Justice, we should consider why cities pay poverty wages, and why 28 states can preempt local efforts to raise the minimum wage.

This week, the United Nations noted a World Day of Social Justice, focused “on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.” Here in the United States, one of the world’s richest countries, raising the minimum wage is the most directly effective measure we can take to guarantee fair outcomes by combatting poverty and economic insecurity.

In recent years, many states, counties, and cities across the country have decided to go that route. Unfortunately, many others are handcuffed when it comes to raising their minimum wage. In 28 states, including Louisiana, local governments are “preempted”—that is, banned—from setting their own minimum wage (23 states also preempt local governments from setting their own paid leave policies). In those states, even when there is local political will to raise the minimum wage—as there is here in New Orleans, where the mayor and six out of seven city council members have pledged support for a $15 minimum wage—local leaders can’t control their city’s economic fate.

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