Minimum wage increases tend to be winning propositions when put to a popular vote.

By Jon Steingart
April 7, 2017

In Arizona, voters in November approved Proposition 206, which requires businesses to pay a higher minimum wage and provide paid sick leave. The state’s wage floor went up to $10 Jan. 1. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry led a coalition challenging the measure, alleging it violated state constitutional provisions that prohibit initiatives that involve multiple subjects or affect the state budget.

The state supreme court refused to delay the minimum wage hike while the lawsuit was pending, and ruled against the challengers March 14. That means the minimum wage remains at $10 per hour and will continue rising as scheduled until it reaches $12 in 2020, with subsequent increases on par with the cost of living.

The lawsuit over Arizona’s voter-approved initiative came as no big surprise to Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of the Fairness Project, a national umbrella organization that supports minimum wage increases through ballot measures. Business groups that want a slower minimum wage increase, or no wage hike at all, wait until voters’ interest and news coverage fade after the election. Rather than operate in “the blaring light of an election,” Schleifer said, business groups may “choose to focus their energies in the shadows of the lobbying efforts or the courts, where they think they can be more effective.”

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