LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - After collecting around 85,000 signatures, a proposed minimum wage increase is one step closer to being on the ballot. Now, attention has turned to informing the public of what the ballot says and what their vote means.
Issue 5 is a ballot measure to gradually raise Arkansas' minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2020. Tuesday’s event was meant to reach the alleged 300,000 Arkansans that could get a raise if it passes.
"Currently the minimum wage in Arkansas is $8.50 per hour. That's less than $18,000 a year for a full-time worker,” said Kristin Foster. "I believe anyone who is working 40 hours-per-week should be able to buy groceries, pay their rent and be able to take care of their children without having to rely on food pantries and backpack programs to make ends meet."
She works with the food pantry in Dardanelle, and says 80 percent of the clientele there are working full-time.
"The polling we've done consistently shows that 65 percent of the people in the state of Arkansas support this measure,” David Couch told me after the press conference. He wrote the ballot measure. "The Special Master found we followed all the proper procedures and that the objections by the Chamber of Commerce to some of the signatures were not well-founded."
After a lengthy court battle, he says he believes it will be on the ballot come November.
The counter-argument: A wage increase could affect small businesses and even corporations that would be forced to cut back.
"Trios has been around since 1986. That's 32 years, which is no small feat for a family-owned independent restaurant,” Capi Peck, a small business owner and a city council member. "One big reason we have that longevity is because of our staff, and we don't pay anyone minimum wage."
Peck doesn't agree with the position that small businesses will be hurt by the proposed measure.
"We know from experience that when we take care of our employees and pay above minimum wage, they are happy, more productive, healthier, loyal, and invested,” Peck said.
"There's also sort of this pervasive myth, or this idea out there, that a lot of people who make the minimum wage or near minimum wage are teenagers or high schoolers, and maybe they don't need that income. Our analysis showed that's not the case,” explained Bruno Showers of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
They also presented their findings on what the wage increase could mean for Arkansans.
"The vast majority of people who would be impacted are over the age of 20, and a lot of people who would be impacted are actually parents themselves," Showers said.
Couch said he fully expects more opposition and litigation in the courts, but for now, Arkansans can expect to see Issue 5 on the ballot in November.