LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — Arkansans for a Strong Economy, a registered Ballot Question Committee of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, today filed a petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court, asking that Issue 5, an initiative to gradually raise Arkansas’ minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021, be struck from the November ballot.
“Arkansas law is clear about what’s required of sponsors and canvassers who gather signatures to put a measure on the ballot, and the law is clear about what all a petition must include for the signatures to be counted as valid,” said Randy Zook, chairman of Arkansans for a Strong Economy.
“Simply put, the committee pushing for a minimum wage increase did not follow the law in registering all of its paid canvassers with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office. We also found that many of the petitions and signatures counted as valid were incomplete or contained errors, and should not have been validated,” said Zook.
The committee argues that once the invalid petitions and signatures are removed from the count, proponents of the measure failed to collect the number of valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. In fact, the committee says proponents failed to even gather the 50,916 valid signatures it needed to qualify for a “cure” period, and that minimum wage supporters should not have been given an extra thirty days to collect additional signatures.
Arkansans for a Fair Wage released a statement Tuesday in response to the lawsuit:
Secretary of State Mark Martin certified the proposal to raise the wage on August 16 after Arkansans for a Fair Wage submitted 84,526 signatures from voters across the state who petitioned to include the question on the ballot in November. This is 16,639 more signatures than is required by law.
“Gradually raising the minimum wage is overwhelmingly popular across the state. If approved, this measure will raise wages for more than 300,000 Arkansans, including almost a hundred thousand working parents,” said Arkansans for a Fair Wage campaign manager Kristin Foster. “What’s more, by raising the minimum wage we can help small businesses all over Arkansas by investing new money back into our local economy. It should be up to Arkansas voters, not the Chamber, to decide on raising the wage in November.”
“There is a clearly outlined process in place for putting a measure on the ballot, and Arkansas voters expect that process to be followed. It wasn’t here,” said Zook. The committee says a wage increase like the one proposed will hurt the state’s economy.
“Gradually raising the minimum wage is good for small businesses like mine,” said Chris George, Owner of Joshua’s Fine Jewelry in Russellville and a member of the Arkansans for a Fair Wage Coalition. “Many small business owners already pay more than the minimum wage and the training, dedication and loyalty that provides is passed down to our customers in how they are treated. It’s a win-win for business and hard-working Arkansans. Raising the minimum wage would mean more people would have money to spend at local businesses like mine and so many other small businesses across the state.”
“Arkansas’s hospitality industry, which includes small, family-owned businesses across the state, would be hit especially hard by this big entry-level wage jump,” said Montine McNulty, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitality Association. “Unfortunately, a mandatory increase like the one proposed may wind up costing jobs, increasing prices, or resulting in reduced hours for workers, as many of our small business owners will struggle to stay afloat,” said McNulty.
“This was a sloppy petition effort, pushing a policy that would be detrimental for our state,” said Zook. “Implementing a minimum wage hike, when our state’s minimum wage is already higher than all of our surrounding states, would hurt the Arkansas economy, and ultimately, it would hurt the Arkansas workers it alleges to help.”
“The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce speaks for big business and corporate special interests — not the health care workers, classroom aides, and waitresses who Initiative 5 will help. Arkansas voters deserve the chance to vote up or down on a wage increase this November. Arkansans for a Fair Wage will defend our petitions and the voters who signed them. ” said David Couch, the campaign’s legal counsel. “We are confident that we have more than enough valid signatures to remain on the ballot in November.”