A huge win for the Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition


RaiseTheWageThis may be a first in Arizona.

Our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature has conceded their unconstitutional lawlessness in court and agreed to a stipulated judgment, even before filing an answer, and pissing away any more of your tax dollars on yet another frivolous defense of their lawless acts. Don’t expect this to become a trend.

The Arizona Daily Sun reports, Flagstaff coalition claims victory in living wage battle with state:

The Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition said late Monday it had reached an agreement with the attorney general’s office that would nullify a 2013 state law taking away the right of communities to set minimum wages.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Brnovich confirmed that the parties had filed a stipulated judgment and are waiting for a signature by the judge in the case.

According to a statement by the coalition, the judgment declares that A.R.S. § 23-204, which was passed by the Legislature in 2013, and prohibits counties, cities and towns from regulating employee compensation and benefits, violates the Voter Protection Act. In 2006, Arizona voters passed Proposition 202, which gave local governments the ability to regulate compensation and benefits. This week’s judgment will clarify that Legislature cannot override voter initiatives.

Flagstaff attorneys Shawn Aiken and Mik Jordahl represented the Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition in their legal action against the state.

Said Aiken in a prepared statement: “The people have prevailed once again. This was a clear case of our state legislature overstepping its authority and we’re so pleased that Arizona voters still have the final word.”

Jordahl added: “Arizona voters understood that local economic conditions such as Flagstaff’s extremely high cost of living may require consideration of higher local minimum wages. The Legislature had no right to shut down that conversation.”

* * *

Joe Bader, representing the Coalition, issued a statement late Monday.

“ With the victory in this lawsuit, we are now ready to take the next step and engage in a community conversation in Flagstaff about local wages,” Bader said. “The Coalition believes it is time to help not only the thousands of working people who live in poverty but also thousands of children who often go hungry because their families can barely make ends meet. Positive outcomes of lifting working people from poverty go beyond economic security; they include better health outcomes and less domestic violence among others.”

I posted about this lawsuit back in April. Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition lawsuit is correct on the law;

Mr. Jordahl is absolutely correct. The “Raise the Minimum Wage for Working Arizonans Act”, Prop. 202 (2006), expressly provides that:

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 . . . 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.

 What makes that important, Jordahl said, is a 1998 constitutional amendment known as the Voter Protection Act.

It specifically prohibits lawmakers from altering or repealing anything approved by voters without a three-fourths vote of both the House and Senate. And even in that case, the provision allows alterations only when done to further the original purpose of what voters enacted.

The 2013 law, Jordahl said, does neither. So, he wants a judge to void that later-enacted statute, paving the way for locally enacted minimum wages that are even higher.

* * *

The “Raise the Minimum Wage for Working Arizonans Act”, Prop. 202 (2006), is  clear and unambiguous. It is also protected by the Voter Protection Act (1998). Our “Big Brother” Tea-Publican Arizona legislature clearly did not have the power to preempt local governments from adopting a minimum wage higher than Arizona’s statutory minimum wage. The 2013 law is in conflict with Prop. 202 and is invalid with respect to local minimum wage ordinances.

So here’s the deal: if our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature does not want cities enacting a hodgepodge of local living wage ordinances, it should simply raise the basis amount from which the Arizona minimum wage is calculated in Prop. 202 (2006) — “$6.75 per hour beginning January 1, 2007” — to raise the state minimum wage. The provision above allows the legislature to increase the minimum wage if it “furthers the purpose of the measure.” Prop. 105 (1998).

I posted about the minimum wage earlier this year. The high cost of low wages: subsidizing corporate welfare (excerpt):

The organization Raise The Minimum Wage calculates that the minimum wage in 1968, adjusted for inflation, would be $10.90 per hour today. That is $2.85 hour more than Arizona’s statutory minimum wage. (Inflation adjusted is not the same as a COLA adjustment, which would be even higher).

The Living Wage Calculator from MIT for Arizona as a whole uses a variable rate based upon the number of dependents/size of household:

Screenshot from 2015-04-16 14:34:34

In either case, Arizona’s statutory minimum wage currently is too low. The “Raise the Minimum Wage for Working Arizonans Act”, Prop. 202 (2006), allows the Arizona legislature to raise the minimum wage over and above the amount called for in this law.

Many communities across the country are adopting Fight for $15 as their minimum wage, most recently the Los Angeles City Council Approved $15 an Hour Minimum Wage increase. This is not out of line with the Living Wage Calculator from MIT for two adults in Arizona, above.

If that is a bridge too far for our legislators, then congressional Democrats have proposed a federal $12 per hour minimum wage. Top Dems line up behind $12 minimum wage :

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are making a new push to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

[Note: $12 hour by 2020 would very likely be too low.]

Top Democrats are getting behind the Raise the Wage Act introduced Thursday, which they say would increase the federal minimum wage for nearly 38 million workers.

The push goes beyond a previous proposal to lift the wage to $10.10 over three years. That effort, championed by then-Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in the last Congress, stalled amid fierce opposition from Republicans.

As I said, this is as simple as amending the basis amount from which the Arizona minimum wage is calculated in Prop. 202 (2006): strike “$6.75 per hour beginning January 1, 2007,” and amend it to “$[pick a number] per hour beginning January 1, 2016.” The COLA provisions in Prop. 200 will automatically adjust the minimum wage in future years.