Arizona sued for unconstitutional attempt to preempt the Arizona Minimum Wage Act

RaiseTheWageEarlier this year I explained the history behind the Arizona Minimum Wage Act, enacted by voters through a citizens initiative in 2006, and the underhanded attempts by our authoritarian lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor to gut the Act by redefining “wages and benefits” in order to preempt local communities from enacting local employee benefits (such as paid time off), something the Arizona Minimum Wage Act expressly permits. Action Alert: GOP war on the Arizona Minimum Wage Act is up for vote in the House today:

In 2006, Arizona voters approved Proposition 202, the Arizona Minimum Wage Act, by a citizens initiative which set a higher minimum wage and adopted an automatic annual  cost of living adjustment.

Proposition 202 also gave local governments the right to enact their own higher minimum wage and other benefits of employment.

A.R.S.§ 23-362, Paragraph I provides:

I. THE LEGISLATURE MAY BY STATUTE RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE ESTABLISHED UNDER THIS ARTICLE, EXTEND COVERAGE, OR INCREASE PENALTIES. A COUNTY, CITY, OR TOWN MAY BY ORDINANCE REGULATE MINIMUM WAGES AND BENEFITS WITHIN ITS GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES BUT MAY NOT PROVIDE FOR A MINIMUM WAGE LOWER THAN THAT PRESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE. STATE AGENCIES, COUNTIES, CITIES, TOWNS AND OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS OF THE STATE MAY CONSIDER VIOLATIONS OF THIS ARTICLE IN DETERMINING WHETHER EMPLOYERS MAY RECEIVE OR RENEW PUBLIC CONTRACTS, FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE OR LICENSES. THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE LIBERALLY CONSTRUED IN FAVOR OF ITS PURPOSES AND SHALL NOT LIMIT THE AUTHORITY OF THE LEGISLATURE OR ANY OTHER BODY TO ADOPT ANY LAW OR POLICY THAT REQUIRES PAYMENT OF HIGHER OR SUPPLEMENTAL WAGES OR BENEFITS, OR THAT EXTENDS SUCH PROTECTIONS TO EMPLOYERS OR EMPLOYEES NOT COVERED BY THIS ARTICLE. (emphasis added)

Last July, the Court ruled that Arizona cities can raise minimum wage.

Our authoritarian lawless Tea-Publican legislature is attempting to preempt local ordinances for minimum wage and employee benefits, e.g., paid time off, while quashing the will of the voters as enacted in the Arizona Minimum Wage Act in 2006.

Now comes a “back-door” attempt to redefine pay and benefits from the evil bastards at the Arizona Restaurant Association to effectively gut the Arizona Minimum Wage Act by a simple legislative act (which likely violates the Voter Protection Act, something our lawless Tea-Publican legislature is also seeking to repeal this session). AZ Legislature would limit city efforts on sick pay:

State lawmakers are moving to undermine the ability of cities to require employers to provide things like sick leave to local workers.

And they’re doing it in a back-door way.

* * *

Instead, HB 2579 seeks to narrow the definition of exactly what “wages” are, to include only the cash compensation paid.

The legislation specifically says that certain things are not wages. That includes everything from fringe benefits like health insurance, sick pay, maternity leave and vacation pay.

Chianne Hewer, lobbyist for the Arizona Restaurant Association, acknowledged the move is designed to short-circuit any move by any city to tell her members — or any other employer — that they have to provide any of that, as none of it is required under state law.

Our authoritarian lawless Tea-Publican legislature passed HB 2579, of course, and Governor Il Duce signed it.

Cue the next lawsuit in three, two, one …

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99 and a who’s-who of elected Democratic officials in Arizona have now sued the State of Arizona for declaratory relief, asserting that HB 2579 is unconstitutional because it violates the Voter Protection Act , Ariz. Const. Art. IV, Part 1 §1(6), and the Home-Rule Provision, Ariz. Const. Art. 13, §2 of the Arizona Constitution.

Here is a copy of the Complaint (.pdf), Maricopa County Superior Court No. CV2016-092409.

Tucson City Councilwoman Regina Romero, who had been working on a Tucson ordinance to provide for paid leave in Tucson before our authoritarian lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor’s back-door attempt to preempt such local ordinances, today has an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star. Regina Romero: Why I’m suing Arizona to help low-wage workers:

Last month, the Arizona Legislature passed, and Gov. Doug Ducey signed, HB2579, prohibiting cities and towns from enacting an earned sick day policy for workers in their communities.

This pre-emptive law was a shot at both Tempe and Tucson, cities exploring citywide sick-day initiatives and seeking to craft a compromise ordinance that would have guaranteed baseline protections for local workers.

This week, five councilmembers from Tempe, Flagstaff and Tucson, 22 state representatives, and 10 state senators — representing cities and towns across Arizona — have launched a lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of HB2579 in Maricopa Superior Court.

Why have we, council members from across the state signed on as plaintiffs in this case against the state of Arizona? We are driven to action because the long-held value of local control; and because working families across our state deserve to be protected as much as businesses.

Home rule provision

Our Arizona Constitution grants our 19 chartered cities the right to legislate free of state interference and prohibits the Legislature from dictating matters of local concern. Regulating benefits, such as earned sick days, falls squarely within our duties as elected officials closest to the people we serve.

HB2579 represents blatant legislative overreach into local decision making. Proposition 202, passed by voters in 2006, clearly establishes that regulating nonwage benefits is a local issue. Ironically, many of the GOP politicians who are trying to subvert local control are the same complaining about top-down governance from Washington.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, nearly 1 million Arizona citizens — almost half of all state workers — lack access to earned sick days. Those without this basic employee benefit are primarily low-wage workers, especially in the service and restaurant industries. And, no surprise, they are disproportionately women (70 percent) and people of color (62 percent).

These alarming statistics portray a painful story of families at risk, one paycheck away from financial insecurity. As councilmembers, we are entrusted to make thoughtful policy choices that best represent the values and ideals of our residents. It is why we, as public servants, cannot abide this attack on local decision-making are taking this fight to the courts.

Statewide effort

In addition to the lawsuit launched June 21, the Healthy Families Coalition is gathering signatures to place a voter-driven initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, will guarantee Arizona citizens a modest number of earned sick days and an incremental increase in the minimum wage, reaching $12 an hour in 2020. I plan on supporting this initiative, and I hope you will, too.

To protect public health, we need to let those who work hard preparing and serving food, or taking care of the elderly or children, stay home when they are sick. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their health.

Mothers should feel secure staying home and caring for a sick child or parent without worrying about losing their job or sacrificing their rent. That’s how we build economic security and resilience for our entire community — at the local level and across our state.

UPDATE: Here is a similar op-ed from Lauren Kuby, Kolby Granville, David Schapira, Regina Romero and Eva Putzova in The Arizona Republic. Our Turn: Why cities are suing Arizona.

2 responses to “Arizona sued for unconstitutional attempt to preempt the Arizona Minimum Wage Act

  1. John Huppenthal

    You and your compatriots are morons dedicated to locking the poor and minority out of the job market. David Neumark has written an entire book (Amazon, new $21, used $3.49) sifting through and summarizing hundreds of studies on the minimum wage.

    It’s no accident that nationwide, over 80% of young African Americans are unemployed. They are locked out and the results are devastating for them and even more devastating for society.

    • Do you support reducing the minimum wage? Abolishing minimum wage? Honestly, the idea of reducing the minimum wage is interesting but I am skeptical that it would provide for fuller employment.