Arkansans for a Fair Wage, the committee that backed the 2018 ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage, is resurfacing to push against Sen. Bob Ballinger‘s bill to roll back the minimum wage.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the wage hike (to $11 by 2021), just as they had overwhelmingly approved a 2014 ballot initiative to rase the state minimum wage to $8.50. Ballinger now seeks to undo the will of the voters. His bill would gut the state minimum wage with a series of exemptions: It would exempt companies or nonprofits with less than 25 employees; it would also exempt employees who were under 18, had a developmental disability, or had a felony conviction. Thousands of exempted workers would be left with the $7.25 federal minimum wage. Ballinger’s bill was previously put on the “deferred list,” perhaps lacking the votes, but he amended the bill on Tuesday and told me may run it again as soon as next week.
In a press release, Kristin Foster, campaign manager for Arkansans for a Fair Wage called it “shameful that Sen. Ballinger would seek to put increased corporate profits and CEO pay ahead of thousands of Arkansas families who are struggling to put food on the table.” The group has also released some short videos on social media.
More from the press release:
Not only would the bill carve out tens of thousands of hard-working parents, who work for companies or nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees, but it ruthlessly carves out several groups of vulnerable workers: those 18 years and under, people with past felony convictions, and those with developmental disabilities.
Families with minimum wage workers often count on contributions from every family member just to make ends meet. The idea that so many vulnerable workers would be forced back to a poverty wage of $7.25/hour while corporations are making record profits, is not only immoral, it’s bad for Arkansas’ economy.
Arkansans for a Fair Wage also shared comments from Randy Horton, the former mayor of Russellville:
Our daughter is 22 years old and has a developmental disability. She works hard but we still spend so many sleepless nights worrying about what will happen to her when we are gone. This heartless bill will allow businesses to discriminate against her, making it impossible for her to earn enough to live independently.
And a statement from Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families:
With one in four Arkansas children living in poverty, the reality is that many young workers are providing essential income to help meet the basic needs of their family. The proposed exemption from minimum wage would make it even harder for young people to limit their working hours and focus the needed time and energy on their education, unlocking future opportunity.
Here’s one of the social media videos from Save AR Wage: