Arkansans Vote to Raise Minimum Wage

Emily Hall, Editor


Approaching adulthood, teenagers are expected to make their own money, pay for some of their own expenses and take more responsibility for their lifestyle. Many students take on part-time jobs outside of school to aid them in their transition into adulthood, many of them paying no more than minimum wage.

Furthermore, many students live in a household where the supporter of their family is making minimum wage. Supporting oneself with a minimum wage income can be difficult enough, but many people are trying to support children with the money from their minimum wage jobs, where they have to work a large amount of hours or be unable to provide for their family.

Having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country, Arkansas minimum wage was $6.25 per hour until 2014.It jumped to $7 per hour in 2015 and continued to jump to its current rate of $8.50 per hour. After  issue five passed on election day 2018, minimum wage in Arkansas will rise to $9.25 per hour by January of 2019. By the end of the gradual increase in 2021, the state-mandated minimum wage for Arkansas will be $11.00 per hour.

With one of the higher poverty rates in the country, Arkansas will be giving over 300,000 people a raise, and senior Andrea Thomas is one of them. Working at the fast food chain Zaxby’s, Thomas is excited about the upcoming hike in minimum wage.

“Right now, I am getting paid $8.50 an hour, and I work a lot because I have to pay car insurance, but we are going up to $9.25 in January,” Thomas said. “I am super excited about that, because I am an expensive person, so it’s really not cutting it.”

With high school students having trouble making payments with minimum wage, supporting a family can prove to be much more difficult. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average Arkansan needs to make $13.26 to afford a two bedroom house, and with minimum wage at $8.50, families are struggling. Junior Christian Brack sees the raised minimum wage as a huge benefit for families around the state.

“With many other states already ratifying a higher minimum wage, I see it as a overall benefit,” Brack said. “It will help Arkansas catch up with the rest of the country.”

While many Democrats support the rise of minimum wage, Republicans worry that the economy may suffer. Republican representatives French Hill, Bruce Westerman and Rick Crawford all opposed the ratification of a higher minimum wage, as well as Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson and lieutenant governor Tim Griffin. Hutchinson fears the raise will affect the conditions of the future economy.

“I will not vote for the ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage over three years to $11.00 per hour,” Hutchinson said to NWA Online. “This would be a job killer, for our youth particularly. It is playing with fire to set a wage rate three years from now when we do not know the economic conditions that far down the road. I support raising the minimum wage, but it should be done through legislative action at such time when the economic outlook supports the action.”

Junior Christian Brack also worries about the effect it could have on the economy.

“I think inflation will happen; however, the legislation just passed, and it was supposed to change over time, which should help, but Arkansas is this last stronghold of very low minimum wage,” Brack said.

With the rise of minimum wage, inflation will occur. As wages rise, prices rise to keep up with companies’ need for money to fuel the higher wages, which has been a barrier in the past for minimum wage raises. With prices steadily increasing already, the struggle for families is also increasing. The increase in minimum wage could also bring businesses to Arkansas that were not here before, creating more jobs and a flourishing economy.

“By increasing minimum wage, we increase our standard of living, which increases the draw for businesses to come here, because people can afford more stuff,” Brack said.