PHOENIX - March 8 is International Women's Day, and a demonstration was held outside the Phoenix office of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), where activists demanded a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.
Currently, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the national minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour. The national minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009, when it was increased from $6.55.
In Arizona, the state minimum wage is $12.15 for 2021, according to the state's Labor Department.
The state's minimum wage was increased to this level after voters approved a minimum wage ballot proposition in 2016. Under that plan, the minimum wage increased to $10 in 2017, $10.50 in 2018, $11 an hour in 2019, and $12 an hour in 2020, with adjustments for inflation after 2020.
An estimated 60% of minimum wage workers are women.
"This is well overdue. I say fight for 15 because we’ve been doing this for 10 years," said Brandy Lintecum.
The rally was attended by activists, service industry workers, and others. Besides calling for a higher minimum wage, those at the rally also called for an end to lower income for tipped workers.
"When you get $2.13 an hour, your boss doesn’t always make up for the other rest of the minimum wage, so really, you really do just, a lot of times, make $2.13 an hour," said Lintecum.
According to Arizona's Labor Department, employers are allowed to pay tipped employees up to $3.00 per hour less than non-tipped employees, sp long as a tipped employee in question earns at least the minimum wage for all hours worked each week, when tips are also counted. However, if a tipped employee does not earn the required minimum wage, even after tips are counted, the employer will have to to make up the difference.
On March 5, Sen. Sinema angered Arizona progressives and others across the country when she walked onto the Senate floor and gave a thumbs down while voting against raising the minimum wage, which was attached to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
"It made me sick to my stomach, that Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake curtsy," said Haley Carrera. "Like, absolutely not. You don’t brand yourself as 'I'm a different kind of politician who lived out of an abandoned gas station,' and then close the door on women behind you."
Seven other Democrats also voted against the minimum wage hike. Sen. Sinema says the Senate should hold a separate debate on increasing the minimum wage instead.
Since the vote, Sen. Sinema has been getting a considerable amount of backlash on social media over the past few days.
Over the weekend, activists with the group 'Progress Arizona,' projected messages on buildings and landmarks in Tempe and Downtown Phoenix, urging Sen. Sinema to support a $15 minimum wage, as well as urging her to lend her support to ending the Senate filibuster.
The rally outside Sen. Sinema's Phoenix office happened on the same day she made a tweet that shows her support to the Paycheck Fairness Act. The U.S. House introduced that legislation in January to address wage discrimination on the basis of sex.
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