Secretary of State Mark Martin has certified that the campaign to increase the minimum wage submitted sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
The drive used labor-backed and a progressive charity’s money for a hurry-up petition campaign that was cleared only after an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling stopped Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s blockade of popular ballot initiatives.
Needing, 67,887 signatures, the campaign for a fair wage gathered 84,526 signatures, Martin said.
The initiated act would increase the $8.50/hr. state minimum to $11 by Jan. 1, 2021. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interests will oppose an increase in pay for lower-income Arkansans. They will also be voting to limit access to courts for injured people, to preserve long-term limits that protect their legislative servants, help the Republican Party with a vote suppression amendment and likely acquiesce to the expansion of gambling at two major corporate casinos.
The wage group later issued a release:
“No one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,” said Stephen Copley executive director of Faith Voices Arkansas, speaking on behalf of Arkansans for a Fair Wage. “Today’s minimum wage is about $18,000 a year for someone working full time. With prices going up all the time, you can’t raise a family on that.”
The initiative would gradually raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $8.50 per hour to $9.25 per hour in 2019, $10.00 per hour in 2020, and ultimately $11.00 per hour in 2021. If approved, the measure would raise wages for more than 300,000 Arkansans, including almost a hundred thousand working parents. Meanwhile, the gradual increase would allow businesses time to adjust while experiencing the benefits of a rising minimum wage, such as increased consumer spending, more engaged and productive employees, and ultimately, happier customers.
“This gradual minimum wage increase is smart and fair. It is phased in over three years to give small businesses time to adapt, while giving working families a much needed boost,” said Kathy Webb, Vice-Mayor of Little Rock. “Raising the wage is good for hard-working people and our local economy.”
The newly formed Arkansans for a Fair Wage continues building strong and growing support from community leaders. This week, the group also announced the launch of its new website, www.arkansansforafairwage.org, and the hiring of Kristin Foster as campaign manager. The website will serve as a hub for essential information and connect voters with opportunities to take action in support of the initiative.
Foster is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of River Valley Food 4 Kids, a nonprofit focused on ending child hunger and generational poverty on the local level. With over 10 years of nonprofit leadership, Foster has a wide range of experience in strategic planning, fundraising, program development, and public relations.
“In my field, I see parents who are working full time, sometimes two jobs, who still need food stamps to feed their family. That’s just wrong,” stated Foster. “We need to raise the minimum wage so families can feed their children without taxpayer dollars. I’m eager to help voters rally behind this commonsense proposal to give working families a meaningful raise.”