As promised, major corporate interests have sued to knock a minimum wage increase off the November ballot.

The suit will be a technical challenge to canvassing procedures and the validity of signatures. It will allege that paid canvassers didn’t comply with strict details enacted by a corporate-influenced legislature to discourage use of paid canvassers for initiated acts and constitutional amendments.

A hurry up paid campaign was necessary to qualify the initiated act because Attorney General Leslie Rutledge resisted for months granting approval of the ballot title, even though it was identical except in amount to the last minimum wage proposal approved by voters.

The new proposal would raise the current $8.50 minimum to $11 by 2021.

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Arkansans for a Strong Economy is the committee fighting the proposal. It is led by Randy
Zook, head of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the lobby for big business in the state.

The secretary of state certified the sufficiency of the signatures, but Zook said in a statement:

“Simply put, the committee pushing for a minimum wage increase did not follow the law in registering all of its paid canvassers with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office. We also found that many of the petitions and signatures counted as valid were incomplete or contained errors, and should not have been validated,” said Zook.

The committee argues that once the invalid petitions and signatures are removed from the count, proponents of the measure failed to collect the number of valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. In fact, the committee says proponents failed to even gather the 50,916 valid signatures it needed to qualify for a “cure” period, and that minimum wage supporters should not have been given an extra thirty days to collect additional signatures. 

From the lawsuit:

Arkansas law makes clear the obligations of sponsors regarding
the use of paid canvassers. As described more fully below, proponents of this Proposed Act ignored these laws by, for example, failing to provide current residential addresses for paid canvassers and failing to provide proper signature cards for paid canvassers. Upon information and belief, proponents of this proposed act also failed to obtain proper criminal background checks and properly executed sworn statements from paid
canvassers. The Secretary of State included in the initial count, the count for purposes of the petition’s eligibility for a cure, and the final certification, signatures and petition parts not to be counted for any purpose

The statement goes on to say the measure would hurt the state’s economy.

“Arkansas’s hospitality industry, which includes small, family-owned businesses across the state, would be hit especially hard by this big entry-level wage jump,” said Montine McNulty, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitality Association. “Unfortunately, a mandatory increase like the one proposed may wind up costing jobs, increasing prices, or resulting in reduced hours for workers, as many of our small businesses will struggle to stay afloat.”

The group offered no evidence of damage to the economy from wage increases, including from the last one enacted in Arkansas. or of a damaging impact from the last minimum wage increase in 2014.

Zook pointed to lower minimums in surrounding states. See, if we just beggar our workers enough, prosperity will flow down on Arkansas in a mighty stream. Just like the Right to Work law did 60 years ago.

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The chamber is going to spending this year to beat a living wage for workers, to prevent them for suing corporations and medical providers that damage them, to limit lawyer fees and to strip the Supreme Court of rule-making authority in favor of a demonstrably corrupt legislature controlled by, who else, corporate Arkansas.  The chamber — with allies in the Little Rock chamber supported by city sales tax money — will also be fighting a term limits amendment that would send him many of their puppets in the legislature.

The wage campaign submitted almost 17,000 more valid signatures than needed, according to the secretary of state. But Zook’s lawsuit will argue it didn’t submit enough valid signatures by the first deadline to qualify for a “cure” period to gather additional signatures and that when invalid signatures are struck the whole petition campaign fails.

Backers of the increase have previously said they took care to follow paid canvassing rules and paid a premium for the service. They also said today

“The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce speaks for big business and corporate special interests — not the health care workers, classroom aides, and waitresses who Initiative 5 will
help. Arkansas voters deserve the chance to vote up or down on a wage increase this November. Arkansans for a Fair Wage will defend our petitions and the voters who signed them.” said David Couch, the campaign’s legal counsel. “We are confident that we have more than enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot in November.”