NORTHWEST ARKANSAS — Arkansans could bring home bigger paychecks in the next few years. A measure to gradually raise Arkansas’ minimum wage has qualified for the November ballot.
Kristin Foster is a part of the coalition group, Arkansans For a Fair Wage.
“The gradual increase will be in 2019, we will go up to $9.25 an hour. Then in 2020, we’ll go up to $10 an hour. In 2021 we will go to $11.00 an hour,” Foster said.
This November, Arkansas voters will get the chance to decide if the current $8.50 an hour minimum wage should be raised for nearly 300,000 Arkansans.
“It’s so important because one in four children in Arkansas don’t have enough to eat when they go to bed at night, and that’s just not acceptable. A family working full time should be able to feed their kids, pay their rent, meet basic needs,” Foster said.
Foster says a gradual wage increase would put more money in pockets to spend locally. “This helps balance out the benefit to workers as well as any challenges it brings to business.”
However, one small business owner says even a small increase would make a bigger dent than people might think.
Taylor Macfee, Owner of Blackboard Grocery & Eatery, says while the idea looks good on paper, it would be tough for his business.
“If you raise minimum wage more than a quarter or 50 cents, then you start getting into where people are going to have to start raising their prices on things to be able to afford payroll,” Macfee said. “We would love to start our employees at $9.00 or $10.00 an hour because they work so hard and have a lot to do. Realistically, we can’t start anyone really higher than minimum wage.”
But Foster disagrees.
“Most small business owners are already paying their employees more than minimum wage, so it tends to impact them less. They tend to see a lot of benefits when low wage workers have more money to spend on food housing and clothing, and the basics they need,” Foster said.