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New Year’s Wage Boost for AZ’s Lowest-paid Workers

January 5, 2009

Phoenix, AZ – It's back to work today for many in Arizona, and some workers will be taking home a bigger paycheck this week. Those on the bottom rung of Arizona's economic ladder will see a pay hike in 2009, as the state's minimum wage rises from $6.90 to $7.25 an hour. The five-percent increase is the result of a 2006 voter-approved initiative.

Although the higher pay is an improvement, it's still not adequate, maintains Rebekah Friend, Arizona executive director of the AFL-CIO.

"A living wage in this state, the last time I saw the figures, would be in the $12 to $14 an hour range. We never said this would be a living wage; we just believed it was a start."

Critics say the higher minimum wage will lead to fewer entry-level jobs. Friend disagrees. She says in states where studies have been done, there has been no negative impact on jobs. She adds it's a myth that the only people making minimum wage are students or part-time workers. Friend says most are adults, often single moms, helping support their families.

"That's what we found in the original studies: Over 70 percent of the people working at minimum wage were adults and were supporting families -- sometimes working two or three of those minimum-wage jobs in order to make ends meet."

For a full-time worker, the increase amounts to $14 a week. Friend says that money will tend to help the economy because it will be spent quickly.

"What we've seen in various studies is that at this economic level, when people get these incremental raises it's not put into 401Ks or stocks on Wall Street. It's put into food and housing and medicine, health care and clothes."

Arizona's minimum wage is adjusted each year according to the inflation rate.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ