Arizona Legislature going back to the future: now they want to bring back the company store


By Craig McDermott, crossposted from Random Musings

If they (the state’s Republicans) want to go with a “carrot-and-stick” approach to lowering the state’s minimum wage, they should at least offer a real carrot, and not a mirage

In the past, one of the methods that large employers used to keep their employees destitute (and easily pliable) was the practice of paying the employees in “scrip” that could only be used in a company-owned store or otherwise returned to the company as payment for needs like housing.

The desperation and spiritual weariness this practice imposed upon its victims was best expressed lyrically in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the song “Sixteen Tons” (the best-known version was performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but his version was neither the first nor the last).

Fast forward to 2016.

State Rep. Karen Fann (R-Prescott) has proposed HB2148.

As written, it would allow employers to count the cost of “board, lodging, or other facilities” that are provided to employees as part of their employment toward the calculation of wages paid to employees.

It would primarily impact workers in low-wage industries like hotels, resorts, and apartment management (and others) where employees are required to live at or close to their workplaces.

The “carrot” that Fann put in her proposal is a repeal of the provision in state law that prohibits municipalities and counties from raising the minimum wage requirement is their areas.

The problem with that?

That section of law already doesn’t apply to “charter” cities.

Cities become eligible to become charter cities when they reach a population of 3500 and create and enact a voter-approved charter.  Not all eligible cities in the state have become charter cites but the cities that are most likely to raise the local minimum wage (Flagstaff, Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, Douglas) are already charter cities.

Now, even if this measure goes forward, it doesn’t seem likely to pass (as minimum wage law in AZ is “voter protected“, it would take a 3/4 vote of the lege to do anything to change the law and that would mean that some Democrats would have to vote for it) nor does it seem likely to survive a court challenge if it does pass (per the Voter Protection Act, any legislative changes to law directly approved by the voters have to further the intent of the act…and Fann’s proposal most assuredly does NOT).  

Still, it’s a not-very-subtle shot across the bow of labor in AZ, warning labor that attacks on living wages in AZ will continue unabated.


  1. It appears that the Republican legislature has become emboldened this year. It is going after labor AND voting rights with renewed vigor despite the requirements of the Voter Protection Act or recollection of the firestorm stirred up by HB2305.

    I have heard that Eric Spencer’s rewrite of Campaign Finance statutes (Title 16, Chapter 6, Article 1) is headed for late in session striker introduction, hoping to pull the kind of trick that got the Alt-fuels bill passed a decade and a half ago (or so).

    To do ANY of these things successfully would require them to have some sort of leverage to force Dem lawmakers to vote contrary to normal expectations.

    So, I’d encourage Meyer and Hobbs and all of their caucus members to be on the lookout for traps.

  2. Why am I not seeing AZ Democrats airing ads that hammer on the consequences of wingnut policies? It would seem those kind of advertising campaigns would go a long way towards excising the wingnuts from our state and federal governments.

    Interesting article on C&L. An excerpt:

    “The Sanders campaign has brought a new style of campaigning to our country’s politics. Sanders is campaigning entirely on issues. He refuses to play along with the corporate media’s politics-as-entertainment style of covering the “horse race” aspect of campaigns. He does not get involved with personality discussions, etc, always reverting to his “message.” This is winning him converts.

    The Clinton campaign is a perfection of an older style of politics. They are raising tremendous amounts of campaign cash, they have a “SuperPAC” that is raising a tremendous amount more, they have built up a solid “machine” in the states, they are racking up “top-down” endorsements, and doing what they can to bring a sense of “inevitability” to her nomination.

    These are contrasting styles, and it is not clear which is the best approach to winning a campaign in the modern United States with its entrenched corporate media fixated on entertainment-style coverage. The Clinton campaign might just be doing what it takes to win an election. This may be especially the case as the election draws near and the less-informed voters, with little time or inclination to study the many issues involved, look for the kinds of queues on who to trust and who will deliver.”

    A core reason why our political scene is so screwed up. Thanks to our stellar media most of the population only see the horse race.

  3. is the arizona democratic party calling for a general strike with support from the labor unions? bueller anyone?

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