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For the most part, they were states in which liberal unions had used a variety of activist tactics and the Democrats had a legislative majority (Miller and Canak 1995a). If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with productivity increases since 1968, it would now be set at $18.67—two-and-a-half times its current value. 122 Multiple academic studies show that states can increase minimum wages without risking job loss. 123 At the country’s 50 largest low-wage employers, times are good for those at the top: Executive compensation averaged $9.4 million in 2011, and firms returned nearly $175 billion to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks. 124 Wal-Mart—the country’s largest low-wage employer with a long record of participation in ALEC—remained profitable throughout the Great Recession, paying its CEO $18.1 million and spending $11.3 billion on dividends and share buybacks in 2011. 125 Yet the inability of the company’s million-plus employees to support their families without public assistance poses an ongoing and growing danger both for these families and their communities.
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