On Thursday, February 28th, the Arizona House of Representatives passed HB2523, which would pay workers under the age of 22 less than the state minimum wage of $11 per hour.
In 2016, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), launched a statewide campaign to gradually raise Arizona’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $12 per hour by 2020. Despite opposition from chambers of commerce across the state, the grassroots led initiative passed with overwhelming voter support.
HB2523 is now in the Arizona Senate where it will go through committee and potentially end up on the floor for a vote. (Editor’s note: The bill was held March 14 in Senate Commerce Committee). Should it pass the Senate it is very likely to be signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey costing folks under the age of 22 money which would help them pay the bills. As a student who relied on a full time job to get through college, legislation like this would’ve cost me my ability to continue my education. I knew several students who were in the same boat as me and several others who worked 2-3 jobs while attending college in order to support their families. So why is the narrative framed to make it seem as though college students don’t rely on jobs to get by? Why does this narrative state that businesses are suffering and we must help business owners? In my opinion, it is an effort to keep working class people working class and allow large businesses such as Amazon and Walmart to continue getting wealthier on the backs of their workers.
In my work since the minimum wage was passed I have heard from several working class individuals that employers are cutting benefits or keeping tips and justifying these actions by telling their employees that it is the only way they can pay the minimum wage. It seems to me that our legislature’s time would be better spent strengthening the Arizona Industrial Commission, which is in charge of investigating wage theft rather than reducing the minimum wage. This would ensure that employers in Arizona not only pay living wages, but would be held responsible when wage theft occurs. It is time for the Legislature to stop working so hard to undo the will of the voters and time for them to work for the constituencies they serve.