Monday, April 25, 2016

Minimum Wage Hikes, Ballot Measures, Doug Ducey and the Restaurant and Hospitality Association

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 2:15 PM

The Arizona Daily Sun has a more accurate headline on a Howard Fischer story about Ducey and the minimum wage than the Star. Here's the misleading Star headline I read this morning:

I had to read through the story to find out that, no, Ducey doesn't think raising the minimum wage may be our best option. He's trying to head off a ballot measure that would create a significant raise by backing a faux raise. The Sun's headline is closer to the truth:

That's more like it. Ducey is leaning toward backing a minor minimum wage hike coupled with anti-worker provisions to head off a ballot measure that would raise Arizona's minimum wage to $12 an hour.

The recent history of Arizona's minimum wage and attempts to increase it is complicated. I'm not an expert, but I'll do my best to lay it out clearly.

In 2006, voters approved Prop 202 by a 2-to-1 margin which raised the state minimum wage to $6.75 an hour, higher than the $5.15 federal level, and it rises with inflation. Right now, the Arizona rate is $8.05. The measure also allows communities to raise their minimum wage above the state level, which some cities and counties want to do. Ducey and the legislature hate the idea of communities mandating a pay raise for low wage workers, but they can't make legislative changes to Prop 202, directly. So they tried to create a law that defines "wages" as nothing but pay, which means it wouldn't include items like health insurance, sick pay, maternity leave or vacation pay. If it was signed into law, cities and counties wouldn't be able to use Prop 202 as a tool to vote in mandates that make employers provide non-pay benefits, but that wouldn't stop them from raising the wage itself.

Meanwhile, people are collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would raise Arizona's minimum wage to $12 an hour—$10 next January, rising to $12  by 2020. Opponents like the Arizona Restaurant and Hospitality Association know the measure could pass. Raising the minimum wage is very popular these days. That's where Ducey's backing of a minimum wage ballot measure comes in. The measure he and the restauranteurs are backing would raise the wage to $9.50 by 2020, and it would stop cities and counties from raising minimum wage above that level.

To put the $9.50 wage in perspective, Fischer estimates that inflation will bring the current minimum wage to $8.70 by 2020, so it's not much of a raise. And it's possible that workers who count on tips—you know, people employed in restaurants—would see their total compensation drop.

Ducey and the restauranteurs are hoping, with both measures on the ballot, their measure, which will have more money behind it, will pass rather than the $12 an hour measure. If that doesn't happen, they can still hope that two similar measures on the ballot will confuse the voters and both will go down. What they don't want is the voters to give a significant increase to low wage workers. 

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