From a Wage Decrease to an Increase for Tipped Workers: Here Are the 2016 Minimum Wage Ballot Initiatives

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From a Wage Decrease to an Increase for Tipped Workers: Here Are the 2016 Minimum Wage Ballot Initiatives

Auditi Guha

Early numbers shows strong support for minimum wage and paid sick leave ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington, according to the Fairness Project.

The #FightFor15 movement, along with the millions of workers rallying behind it, has made the minimum wage effort a top ballot initiative for the 2016 election.

California and New York have won the battle to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, but many other states are hoping to follow suit on Tuesday.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton supports raising the minimum wage and, as Linda Keslar noted in a Forbes magazine article, wants to restore collective bargaining rights for unions. Previously, Clinton introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act while in the U.S. Senate.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has flip-flopped on the minimum wage issue, sometimes supporting an increase to $10 and sometimes saying that states should decide, explained Keslar.

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Early numbers show strong support for minimum wage and paid sick leave ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington, according to the Fairness Project, a supporter of minimum wage ballot initiatives that has partnered with nearly every state campaign.

“There is news every day about shifting enthusiasm at the top of the ballot, but support for raising the minimum wage and providing paid sick leave is unwavering,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the Fairness Project, in an online statement. “Voters are responding to these campaigns because they know that despite the fact that raising the minimum wage is long overdue and desperately needed, it is highly unlikely that Congress or their state legislatures can or will take action.”

Here are the minimum wage ballot initiatives up for a vote in today’s election:

ARIZONA

Proposition 206, or the “Healthy Working Families Initiative,” an initiated state statute on the ballot in Arizona, is looking to raise the minimum wage to $10 in 2017, and then incrementally to $12 by 2020, as well as creating a right to paid sick time off from employment. A “no” vote opposing the measure would keep the minimum wage at its current $8.05, adjusted for cost of living, and leave employers to decide whether or not to offer paid sick time, according to Ballotpedia.

The measure has divided the state’s business community, the Arizona Republic reported.

Unions and nearly 200 local small businesses support the increase and say it would be better for business and the community.

Large business organizations, corporations, many small businesses, and restaurants oppose it. They argue the increased wages would damage the local economy, close local businesses, eliminate entry-level jobs, and raise the prices of goods and services.

Arizonans for Fair Wages and Healthy Families is leading the campaign. Supporters include the Arizona Democratic Party and Living United for Change in Arizona. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce launched an opposition campaign called Protect Arizona Jobs.

Polls indicate that around 56 percent of Arizona voters support Proposition 206.

In addition to the statewide ballot, voters in Flagstaff, Arizona, are considering Proposition 414, an initiative that would raise the minimum wage within city limits to $15 by 2021, the Republic reported. 

COLORADO

Colorado has a $12 minimum wage amendment known as Amendment 70 on the ballot today. A “yes” vote would raise the minimum wage from $8.31 to $9.30 per hour in 2017, and then increase it 90 cents each year until it reaches $12 in 2020, according to Ballotpedia. A “no” vote would keep the state minimum at $8.31 per hour.

Supporters are led by Colorado Families for a Fair Wage, and include nonprofits, labor unions, and some business owners, the Denver Post reported.

The opposition campaign, Keep Colorado Working, has argued a higher minimum could hurt struggling small businesses and reduce jobs.

But proponents say that when Colorado raised its minimum wage ten years ago, it added more than 73,000 jobs in the following two years, even though those years included the start of the Great Recession in 2007 and 2008.

Restaurant owners oppose the amendment, fearing the increase would widen the gap between tipped and non-tipped workers and push restaurants to switch from tips to service charges, according to the Post

A recent poll shows Colorado voters are leaning 58 percent in favor of the minimum wage increase.

MAINE

The Maine minimum wage increase, or Question 4, is on the ballot as an indirect initiated state statute. A “yes” vote would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2020 and increase tipped workers’ direct wage to $5 per hour by 2017. The tipped workers wage would continue increasing each year by $1 until it reaches the general minimum wage by no later than 2024. A “no” vote would keep the state minimum at $7.50, according to Ballotpedia.

The Maine People’s Alliance, Maine AFL-CIO, and Maine Small Business Coalition support the measure, arguing that the increase is much-needed to counter a stagnant minimum wage that has not changed since 2009, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Business groups, like the Maine Restaurant Association, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, and Maine Heritage Policy Center, have said Question 4 will force small businesses to battle for new hires as Maine’s labor pool shrinks.

Sixty-eight percent of 600 registered voters polled in Maine support the minimum wage hike, the Bangor Daily News reported.

SOUTH DAKOTA

South Dakota is the one and only state with a measure to decrease the minimum wage for some residents. If the veto referendum Referred Law 20 passes, the minimum wage for workers under the age of 18 will decline from $8.50 to $7.50 and will no longer be required to keep up with inflation. A “no” vote opposes the measure, also called SB 177, and would repeal it, according to Ballotpedia.

Republicans in the South Dakota legislature responded to voter approval of the 2014 Measure 18, which raised the minimum wage, by introducing this bill to exempt workers under age 18 from receiving the required minimum wage of $8.50.

Opponents, led by the state’s Democratic Party, argue there should be a single minimum wage, not one that “economically discriminates” against younger workers, Business Insider reported. More than 210,000 South Dakotans are under 18, almost a quarter of the state’s population.

WASHINGTON

Washington’s Initiative 1433 is the largest minimum wage increase on the ballot in 2016. A “yes” vote on the initiated state statute would raise the state’s minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 by 2020 and require paid sick leave for employees. A “no” vote would keep the current amount, according to Ballotpedia.

The initiative would raise the state’s minimum wage over four years to $13.50. The first jump, from the current $9.47 to $11 an hour, would start January 1. Under current law, the state minimum wage is set to rise on January 1 to $9.53 an hour, according to the Seattle Times.

Labor unions and workers’ advocates argue that the state’s current minimum wage isn’t enough to live on. The measure’s opponents claim communities outside Seattle can’t sustain the higher prices, the Times reported. 

Raise Up Washington, the group behind Initiative 1433, has said that the current minimum wage is “not enough for a single person to afford a one-bedroom in the state.

An August poll found that 57 percent of Washington voters surveyed supported the initiative, according to the Times.