Dorman Should Embrace Fair Wages Movement

Image of Joe Dorman

If state Rep. Joe Dorman wants to become a credible candidate for governor in Oklahoma he should embrace the national fair wages movement and push for raises for state workers.

Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat, recently announced he’s forming an exploratory committee to determine if he should run for governor. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has announced she’s running for reelection. Former state Rep. Randy Brogdon, a Republican, has also announced he’s running along with R.J. Harris, of Norman, who describes himself as a libertarian Democrat.

At this point, it looks like Fallin will be difficult to beat. Her approval ratings remain high, and the anti-President Barack Obama hysteria here, fueled by biased, local corporate media outlets, should help her and all Republican candidates again in 2014. Both Brogdon, a social conservative, and Harris seem like outliers, running to mostly score ideological points.

That leaves us with Dorman. What are his chances? As a Red Dirt Report post written by Mark Faulk points out, Dorman has an extremely conservative voting record, which includes votes in favor of draconian anti-abortion bills. He’s unlikely to generate a lot of enthusiasm among progressives, especially if he chooses to run a Republican-lite campaign. That’s why it’s important he define himself with issues that can solidify the Democratic base while peeling away Republican votes from Fallin.

I don’t know where Dorman stands on what’s been called the fair wages or living wages movement and raises for state workers, many of whom haven’t seen salary increases in several years. But by highlighting these issues, among others, such as education funding, Dorman could become a more credible candidate and also shed light on growing income inequality in Oklahoma and this country.

Dorman should commit to trying to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in Oklahoma if Congress doesn’t do so under a plan supported by Obama. He should also commit in his campaign to trying to raise state workers’ salaries by at least five percent, if not more, if he’s elected governor. These issues can win votes, and also force the hands of Republicans.

States and cities across the country have begun to raise or to consider raising their local minimum wage because of inaction on the issue by the gridlocked U.S. Congress.

According to the Living Wage Calculator, a single parent with two children needs to make $21.63 an hour in Oklahoma County to make ends meet. The current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour keeps people here and elsewhere mired in poverty. Meanwhile, corporate profits are soaring after the so-called “end” of the Great Recession.

By highlighting these issues, Dorman could risk alienating the state’s corporate power structure, but what has he or any other Democrat got to lose if they really intend to run a viable campaign for statewide office at this particular time?

Oklahoma workers, both in the private and public sectors, need a popular and credible champion. Could it be Dorman?