Give Arkansas a Raise Now will hold a press conference Tuesday, December 17 at 10:30 a.m. in the Old Supreme Court Room at the State Capitol to announce the launching of an Initiated Act ballot campaign to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas.
The Arkansas minimum wage is $6.25 an hour, well below the current federal minimum of $7.25. Many states are moving to raise the minimum wage and polls nationwide show broad voter support, even among Republicans. See New Jersey where popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie fiercely opposed a state increase but it was overwhelmingly approved by voters. Arkansas struck a compromise in 2006 with a raise agreed to by business rather than an initiative campaign that would have indexed the increase to inflation. That will be part of the new initiative.
A poll in the fall showed broad support for an increase to $8.25 an hour. Legislation to acomplish that failed to clear the Arkansas legislature. The proposal tomorrow would phase in an increase to $8.50 an hour and would not be indexed.
If you want people to work the pay should dignify the toil. Try supporting a family on $13,000 a year. There’s an economic imperative to an increase, too, as the New Yorker recently wrote:
… as Steven Greenhouse reported in a bleak post-Thanksgiving article, too many Americans now work low-paying jobs—for example, stocking inventory and ringing up merchandise in big-box stores like Walmart and Target—to have enough purchasing power to boost sales. Americans are too poor to stimulate economic growth.
One obvious solution is to pay them more—more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, more than the eight dollars an hour that a Walmart employee makes in base pay. Henry Ford paid his assembly-line workers five dollars a day, enough to buy a Ford car. Target could pay its “associates” enough to buy a sixty-inch flat-screen TV at Target.
Around the country, there are the beginnings of a wage movement. A minimum-wage hike has passed the State Senate in Massachusetts, and similar efforts are under way in New York and numerous other towns and counties. (In this week’s issue of the magazine, Steve Coll writes about one in Washington State.) President Obama announced his support for a Senate bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over two years. Fast-food workers have been protesting low pay for months, and they plan to walk off the job in a hundred cities this coming Thursday, demanding fifteen dollars an hour. On Black Friday, more than a hundred people were arrested outside Walmart stores from coast to coast. This movement is the great social-justice cause of our time.