NORTHWEST ARKANSAS, Ark. (KNWA) — In less than a week, Arkansans will head to polls to vote in the the November midterm elections.
On the ballot, a measure that could put more money into the pockets of workers around the state.
In 2014, Arkansas’ minimum wage was set at $6.25.
Four years later, minimum wage is right at $8.50 an hour.
Issue five is a measure to gradually raise Arkansas’ minimum wage to $11.00 by 2021.
How you vote will decide if nearly 300,000 Arkansans will take home a higher paycheck in the next few years.
Amy Wilson is a single mom with three kids working as a custodian in Russellville schools to make ends meet.
“It’s kind of disheartening not to be able to provide for my children just simple pleasures,” Wilson said. “Right now we are struggling to get by, putting food on the table, paying the bills and then having the extra money to put aside for all those little things that happen.”
Wilson says if the minimum wage in Arkansas is raised to $11.00 an hour, it would increase her children’s quality of life.
“To buy healthier foods i could feed my kids, take them out and do things, wouldn’t have to freak out if i had an oil leak — or my tire bursts like it did a couple of weeks ago,” Wilson said.
Arkansans For a Fair Wage is the campaign pushing to increase minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by 2019, $10.00 an hour by 2020, and $11.00 an hour by 2021.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen the price of groceries and housing, and everyday necessities has gone up. But our wages have not kept up with that, especially our wage workers,” Campaign manager Kristin Foster said.
Others, like Robert Lee, say the the measure will hit the pocketbooks of small business owners.
“Oh you only think it’s a couple of bucks. A couple of bucks multiplied over 30, 40 hours, plus the added burden of the extra taxation that comes with it. That gets into high dollars,” Lee said.
Lee has been in the restaurant business for 38 years, and owns Renzo’s Pasta and Italian Steakhouse in Fayetteville.
“Most restaurants only run 3 to 8% on the very bottom line. You add a nickel to that, you might be in business, you might not be.”
Lee says if this measure is passed, small business owners would likely have to raise prices, cut back on quality, or cut back on staffing.
“You set that playing field level and raise everybody up to a higher wage, and I can’t give this person a higher wage where they deserve to be,” Lee said.
But Foster disagrees.
“What we’ve seen is when low income workers make more money, they tend to spend most of that back in their own community. That influx of dollars tends to offset the addition cost in wages,” Foster said.
If issue five is passed, every employer would be required to pay no less than $9.25 an hour starting on January 1, 2019.