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More than 350K signatures submitted in effort to raise Arizona's minimum wage

A group hoping to raise Arizona’s minimum wage submitted the signatures they need to get their measure on the ballot to the state on Wednesday.

The measure pushed by Raise the Wage AZ would increase the minimum wage by a dollar each of the next two years — if it’s approved by voters in November.

That’s in addition to current requirements that the minimum wage rises with inflation.

Arizona’s current minimum wage is $14.35 per hour.

Raise the Wage AZ said Wednesday that they collected 354,278 signatures. That’s less than 100,000 above the threshold of 255,949, which is a somewhat small cushion.

The measure also aims to eliminate tipping credits, which allow employers to pay their employees less than the minimum wage, if they’re getting tips.

This measure would be a third effort by voters to hike the minimum wage.

Prior to 2006, employers had to pay workers just $5.15 an hour, the same as the federal minimum. A ballot measure that year hiked it to $6.75, with inflationary annual increases.

In 2016, the state minimum wage had risen to $8.05. Voters again voted to increase it in steps to $12 an hour by 2020, again with future hikes linked to inflation.

The federal minimum is just $7.25.

Another inflationary increase in an amount yet to be determined will kick in automatically on Jan. 1.

The One Fair Wage Act would boost whatever that figure is by $1 on that date, with another $1 increase on Jan. 1, 2026, also above the regular inflationary increase.

That could easily put the minimum wage to as much as $18 by that point.

What is particularly alarming for restaurant owners is the initiative would eliminate their ability to pay employees $3 an hour less than the minimum wage, as long as their tips bring them up to the minimum. That would mean the restaurants would be on the hook for that entire $18, regardless of how much workers take home in tips.

Restaurant owners persuaded lawmakers to put a constitutional measure on the ballot.

That measure would not override the proposed hikes in the minimum wage. But it would allow restaurants to pay workers 25% less than that if their take-home pay, with tips, reached $20 an hour.

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said he believes most wait staff would earn that $20 minimum with their tips. And given an $18 minimum wage, that would mean restaurants would have to cover just $13.50.

Attorney Jim Barton is working with Raise the Wage AZ, and is suing over the lawmakers’ measure, which is dubbed the Tipped Workers Protection Act. Barton argues that the title is deceptive.

If the lawmakers’ measure survives the legal challenge and Raise the Wage AZ’s effort survives any signature challenges, both measures will appear and face off on the November ballot.

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.
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