Wage Rage ‘Fight for $ 15’ election initiative wins in Tucson | in importance current function

For more than two months, organizers of the Tucson Fight for $ 15 campaign have been working to collect signatures in hopes of getting a citywide political initiative on the ballot in November. The initiative aims to gradually increase Tucson’s minimum wage to $ 15 by 2025. In addition to increasing wages, the initiative would lead to the implementation of a variety of worker protection measures, including the creation of a city wage enforcement office.

“The nice thing about the citizens’ initiative is that you don’t have to have politicians on board,” said CJ Boyd, campaign manager for Tucson Fight for $ 15. “We have politicians who are very supportive of our initiative. But that doesn’t require it. It’s about the people actually pushing the legislation themselves, getting broad support and passing laws based on people’s needs.”

The idea for the campaign came about a year ago when a collective of local nonprofits known as the Southern Arizona Prosperity Alliance came together to discuss the causes of poverty in Tucson. The group said they wanted to address the problem directly through concrete action, rather than just implementing a series of “patchwork” solutions.

People from low-income munities have struggled constantly to cover their costs while earning the minimum wage. Limited access to affordable housing has been a particularly devastating problem – especially since the pandemic broke out. And rental costs in the city continue to rise. According to a study conducted by CoreLogic, the price of renting a single family home in Tucson rose 9.8% from January 2020 to January 2021.

“Working for a minimum wage is one thing that equates to being young and getting into the job market,” said Zaira Livier, director of the People’s Defense Initiative and a member of the $ 15 Tucson Fight Steering Committee. “But we need to understand that a lot of the people who work for a minimum wage – or close to the minimum wage – are parents, poor working class people who have a few jobs for themselves, and often they’re colored people, especially women of color.”

PDI played a major role in drafting the Tucson Minimum Wage Act in collaboration with a team of attorneys and other members of the SAPA. The group spent a lot of time making sure the bill was ready before submitting to the city to officially launch the campaign in late February.

“Any time you do something like this, something progressive, you should expect to encounter opposition from the powers that be,” Boyd said. “They know there will be people who won’t want to pay their employees anymore and who will spend a lot of money to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The group modeled the legislation on Flagstaff’s Minimum Wage Act, or Proposition 414 – a citizens’ initiative passed by 53.99% of the city’s electorate in 2016. Legislation gradually increased the city’s minimum wage from $ 10 an hour in 2017 to $ 15 an hour in January.

Critics of Prop. 414 argued that an increase in the minimum wage would weigh on small businesses and lead to higher unemployment in Flagstaff, but the gradual increases over the years have generally not affected unemployment rates. According to the research platform YCharts, the unemployment rate in Flagstaff remained at around 6% even after an increase in the minimum wage in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

A study by the National Employment Law Project found that there was no correlation between increases in the minimum wage and increased job losses. The study examined historical data on 22 increases in the federal minimum wage between 1938 and 2009. The results show that an increase in the minimum wage is more likely to lead to an overall increase in employment levels.

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In terms of the small business impact, some small business owners in Flagstaff and elsewhere in the US have expressed a willingness to adjust their prices so they can pay their workers a liveable wage. Not only does this help workers meet their daily costs, but it can also benefit small businesses.

“I’ve reached out to small local businesses and almost everywhere they support them because one of the arguments they make is that retention is equally important,” said Steve Kozachik, councilor for Ward 6, Tucson. “One of the highest costs of doing business, whether you’re a large or small employer, is retraining or recruiting sales. So keeping people on is a big deal for our small local businesses.”

The Tucson Minimum Wage Act would gradually increase the minimum wage from $ 12.15 an hour to $ 13 an hour in April 2022. Thereafter, the minimum wage in Tucson would gradually increase each January until it reached $ 15 by January 2025. In subsequent years, the minimum wage would increase due to the rate of inflation in Tucson.

One of the most important aspects of the legislation would be the establishment of a city wage enforcement agency that would ensure employers cannot steal wages from workers by paying less than the law requires, not compensating them for overtime, or misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

“We have a federal minimum wage – and we can all debate whether it’s the right dollar amount, but we have it, it exists – and yet there is no government agency that enforces it,” said Billy Peard, an attorney who does a lot Money has been spent part of his career as a representative of low-wage workers. “Part of what we’re doing with this Tucson initiative is saying enough about it. Too many years have passed without these laws enforced.”

In 2016, Arizona voters passed the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, which gradually increased the state minimum wage from 2017 onwards. For the first time in Arizona history, paid sick leave was also introduced. The Tucson Minimum Wage Act would raise Tucson’s minimum wage above state levels and provide greater worker protection for those who work within city limits.

Boyd and a team of volunteers have been collecting signatures across town since late February. Collecting signatures during a pandemic was a challenge for the volunteers, as movements like the $ 15 Tucson Fight typically rely on large-scale events to aid signature-collection efforts.

The grassroots campaign must collect approximately 15,000 signatures from registered voters in Tucson by July 2 for the proposal to appear on the ballot. However, their goal is to raise 30,000 before submitting their signatures for review.

“I think it’s so important that people understand how many hours you have to work on this current minimum wage just to cover your most basic expenses,” said Carmen Smith-Estrada, a campaign volunteer. “If this law were to be passed, it would really be a step in the right direction to bring people closer to basic dignity and a better quality of life.”

For more information on Tucson Fight for $ 15, visit tucsonfightfor15.com

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