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November Ballot in Arizona Likely to Include Minimum-Wage Measure

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Arizona voters will likely get to decide this fall whether to raise the state's minimum wage and mandate employers to provide paid sick time.

The Arizona Healthy Working Families campaign submitted 271,883 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on July 7. If at least 150,642 of the signatures are verified to be from Arizona registered voters, the initiative will appear on the November ballot.

The measure would raise the state's current minimum wage of $8.05 an hour to $10 on January 1, 2017, and then incrementally to $12 an hour by 2020. It also contains a provision whereby employees could earn three to five paid sick days per year.

Anabel Maldonado, an organizer with Arizona Healthy Working Families, said a minimum-wage increase would not only benefit workers, but also the state's economy.

"We know that when people are getting paid more, they go out and spend more and, in turn, that benefits the entire community and the entire state economy," Maldonado said.

She added that close to 1 million workers, most of whom are people of color and women, would benefit from raising the state's minimum wage and mandating paid sick time.

The campaign, which has been funded in large part by two nonprofits, Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) and the Fairness Project, enjoys support from dozens of business leaders, though some in the restaurant industry are concerned about how it would affect them. In an attempt to appease those worries, the ballot initiative proposes to establish a $9 hourly base for tipped workers.

One of the initiative's most influential opponents is the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In a statement released last week, chamber president and CEO Glenn Hamer said the initiative could force employers to "lay off employees, raise prices, institute hiring freezes, invest in automation that will make employees unnecessary, or even close up shop."

Hamer noted that Arizona's minimum wage is already above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, and that it's adjusted annually based on a rise in the cost of living in the state.

"The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is strongly opposed to this anti-jobs initiative and will work hard to ensure it does not pass in November," Hamer said.

If the initiative makes it on the ballot, Arizona will join three other states in voting in November on whether to raise the minimum wage. Efforts in Maine and Colorado also propose to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. A proposal in Washington aims for $13.50 an hour by that same year. 

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