LITTLE ROCK — The name and title of a ballot proposal that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour over a three-year-period was certified by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on Friday.
Give Arkansas a Raise Now, which submitted the ballot proposal, now has until July 7 to gather 62,507 signatures of registered Arkansas voters in order to qualify the proposed initiated act for the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
“Obviously we are excited,” said Stephen Copley, chairman of Give Arkansas a Raise Now, which includes Arkansas AFL-CIO President Alan Hughes and Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP.
Copley said he expects the organization’s website to be up and running within the next 10 days and “certainly within the next couple of weeks we hope to have our full launch around the state and begin to recruit volunteers.”
He said the goal is to have people out gathering signatures by early February.
Under the proposal, the state minimum wage would rise to $7.50 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015, to $8 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016, and to $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017.
Arkansas is one of four states with a minimum wage below the federal minimum of $7.25. The federal wage has to be paid except when the employing business makes less than $500,000 annually, according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Waiters or others working in a profession where tips are common would still have to make a minimum of $3.62 an hour.
Arkansas last raised its minimum wage in 2006, from $5.15 to $6.25 an hour. That measure passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. The state’s minimum wage is below the federal minimum wage. Nineteen states have a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage.
In March, a House bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $8.25 an hour never made it to the House floor for a vote. It failed in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. It needed 11 votes and received six “yes” votes and 10 “no” votes in the 20-member committee.
The Arkansas Hospitality Association and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce-Associated Industries of Arkansas opposed the higher minimum wage proposal, arguing it would harm small businesses.