Amongst the torrent of passions and multitudinous number of political candidates and ballot initiatives the Arizonan electorate were inquired to vote on Election Day 2016, one of them was on the contentious question of whether or not to approve Proposition 206, also known as The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act.
Prop. 206, which was approved by a 58-42 percent margin, raised the minimum wage from an hourly rate of $8.05 in 2016, to $10 in 2017, and would then increase annually until reaching its final goal of $12 by 2020. Arizona’s current minimum wage stands at $10.50.
Earlier this month, the Arizona Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee voted on a resolution to add a referendum on the November 2018 ballot, asking voters to reconsider repealing the laws created under Prop. 206.
Although the initiative would not have the full effect of rescinding the law, it would freeze the current minimum wage at $10.50 and cease all planned future increments. Voters may also be asked to submit a vote on the question of paid sick leave accorded to all full-time employees as well.
The measure is now headed to the Senate floor for a full vote, followed by the House, where it is expected to pass both Republican-controlled chambers with near certitude. This means that Arizonans should expect to reassess and recast a new vote on the issue come Nov. 6.
Now, let’s conjecture for a brief moment, and assume that a Prop. 206 repeal initiative will inevitably find a place on the 2018 ballot. Will there actually be enough willing voters to repeal the act’s scheduled minimum-wage increases? Probably not.
What the Arizona Legislature is attempting to accomplish with this measure is ultimately a futile endeavor.
I have a vexing suspicion, as do other Arizonans, that the manifestation of a spirited majority that is eager to repeal a popular law simply does not exist. The reason that a majority does not exist is because Prop. 206 has granted Arizonan minimum-wage recipients, and supporters of it, with a privilege.
By law, no one in Arizona is allowed to work for less than the minimum wage. Individuals now own the right, through government coercion, to receive this minimum by default, regardless of their job. This right is a quasi-entitlement, and just like all entitlements, they are practically impossible to revoke.
Individuals who receive them are sold immediately on the idea that they now possess a right to something, which the government has mandated them to receive. Retractions of any kind are highly unpopular, infeasible and, quite frankly, belittling to those who already hold these privileges; a reasonable argument for why legislators should always practice greater prudence when expanding such privileges and entitlements.
So then, which cluster of Arizonans does this future referendum appeal to? Small, locally owned businesses, of course.
Back in early January, Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller wrote an article expressing that minimum-wage increases did not cause devastation, yet cites three separate cases where local restaurants were forced to close due to increases. He then cites George Hammond, from the UA’s Eller College, stating that the unemployment rate is expected to continue its drop despite the wage increases.
I would agree, but nowhere in that article does Steller mention that the reason the unemployment rate will see further drops is because large companies like Walmart, Starbucks and Target do most of the hiring as it is.
These companies have economies of scale, meaning they can easily absorb these higher wage costs. Small businesses cannot. I encourage everyone to please be conscious, and critically analyze these externalities when advocating for any minimum-wage hike.