Voter-approved minimum wage law divides Flagstaff

Minimum wage is a topic that can be divisive, and that is proving to be true for the Flagstaff community, which has set a higher standard, when it comes to minimum wage.

Last year, Flagstaff voters passed Proposition 404 along with Proposition 206. This means that for Flagstaff, the minimum wage there has to be at least $2 above Arizona's minimum wage.

Currently, Arizona's minimum wage stands at $10 per hour, according to the Industrial Commission of Arizona.

Flagstaff's business community is reportedly very concerned about the future of their livelihoods, as the double-whammy minimum wage increase comes. At least one business has already shut down, because they cannot afford the minimum wage increase.

In addition, many businesses reportedly would not speak out against the wage hikes, saying they are experiencing backlash from employees and customers.

"They're scared, they're really scared," said Rand Jenkins. He is the spokesperson for a group of local businesses that are pushing to amend Flagstaff's new minimum wage law. "They're trying to adjust their business models as fast as possible, except they really don't have enough time."

In July, the City of Flagstaff will increase its minimum wage to $12 per hour, and the increase will continue until 2021, when it reaches $15 per hour.

"I don't know the number of businesses and non-profits that could close, but it could be really, really bad for Flagstaff," said Jenkins.

At least two family-owned businesses has shut its doors for good, Country Host Restaurant West and Cultured Cafe.

Cultured Cafe's owner made a post on their since-deleted Facebook page on their decision to close the business, citing the combined costs of state and city minimum wage hikes.

According to the owner, they were publicly condemned for the decision. Now, many businesses reportedly will not speak out about the issue, in fear of backlash.

"They'll boycott those businesses, and it kind of goes backwards," said Jenkins. "Those are our local businesses we need to do everything we can to support."

Several community action groups have reportedly been forded, and supporters on both sides are expected to attend a city council meeting on Tuesday night, to voice their opinions.