Arizona minimum wage initiative will be on the November ballot

Another measure Arizona voters will see on the ballot in November is the Fair Wages and Healthy Families initiative. FOX 10's Steve Krafft reports.

- Another measure Arizona voters will see on the ballot in November is the Fair Wages and Healthy Families initiative. Voters will decide whether to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by the year 2020.

The measure has sparked a heated debate between supporters who say it's about time the minimum wage is raised and opponents who say it's bad for the economy.

Right now, the minimum wage in Arizona is $8.05 an hour. That translates into about $17,000 per year if you're working full time.

"What we know is a single mom raising children cannot support that family on $8.05 an hour, which is $17,000 a year. You cannot raise a family on $17,000 a year, so it is time to raise the minimum wage and give hardworking families throughout Arizona a chance to put a little money in their pocket," said Bill Scheel of the Arizona Healthy Working Families Campaign.

The proposition would phase in the higher wage. $10 an hour by next year. It creeps up to $12 an hour by 2020. 

Backers say a lot of people work for minimum wage in Arizona, so this is a real pocketbook issue.

"I believe there are a million people that will be affected by this initiative. A lot of people changed for the better if this passes," said David Schapira of the Arizona Healthy Working Families Campaign.

Stephanie Vasquez favors paying more than the minimum. At both of her Fair Trade Cafes in central Phoenix, she's committed to paying $12 an hour by 2020.

"I have been in business here for nine years and second locations for five... We pay well above that in accordance for minimum wage. I am already in compliance," she said.

Why is she doing it?

"My line is coffee with a conscience and truly a company's biggest investment is their team and the people who bring to life their vision as a business, so it is almost like how could I not pay them well?"

Vasquez says paying more has helped ensure her employees are happy and loyal.

Bibiana Canales has been working at Fair Trade for nearly six years and now she's a manager.

"I love working here. All the people.. it is so nice.. people from the community, our regular customers are like family, you know," she said.

But it is not hard to find people who oppose this initiative who feel it would be bad for business and would cost jobs.

"This will be very damaging to small business and going to make it hard for a lot of entry level workers to get their foot in the door," said Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce says the free market should dictate the minimum wage.

"So we are opposed to the 12 by 20 proposal. We think it is a well-intentioned proposal, but in developing for the state goes about it the wrong way," said Mike Huckins of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.  

So at $17,000 a year, if you are a single mom, how do you make that work?

"That is a good question. It is tough, but the argument is the minimum wage was never meant to be a full living wage," replied Huckins. "It was for low skilled workers that would progress up."

Raising the minimum wage is an idea popping up in states around the country.

Will Arizona voters say yes to $12 by 2020? We'll find out in November.


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