Arizona Education Association

Winter 2016

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26 ADVOCATE | WINTER 2016 T he Arizona Healthy Working Families Initiative declared victory on November 8, 2016, for Proposition 206, the initiative to raise Arizona's minimum wage and provide earned paid sick days for all Arizona workers. Supporters of the "Yes on 206" campaign gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Phoenix to welcome the election night results. "This victory is dedicated to Arizona's working families," said Tomas Robles, chair of the Healthy Working Families Initiative. "Because voters raised their voices, hardworking Arizonans will have the chance to raise their families without struggling to make ends meet. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live and work in dignity. This is a great first step to just that for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans." Proposition 206 is the result of a two-year effort fueled by the social change group Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), which was a driving force behind the Latino turnout at the polls. A record number of Latinos were eligible to vote on November 8, representing 12 percent of the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. In Arizona, Latinos represented 22 percent of eligible voters, according to Pew. The measure was created with people like Kathy Ortega in mind. As the sole breadwinner for her household, Kathy finds it hard to make ends meet with the wages she earns at the fast food restaurant where she works. "This is going to be a big help to me and my family," Ortega said. "It's a small increase that will go a long way in paying my rent, buying groceries, and paying for bus passes so my daughter and I can get to school and work. Having access to earned sick days also means I can schedule a doctor's appointment without losing out on a day's pay. And that's something I just can't afford to do." Proposition 206 will go into effect beginning January 1, 2017. That's when the first increase to the current minimum wage of $8.05 will be enacted. The measure calls for an incremental wage increase over four years starting with $10 an hour in 2017 and gradually increasing to $12 an hour in 2020. A $3 differential will remain in place for subminimum wage tipped workers. More than three-quarters of a million Arizonans are expected to be impacted by this increase. Prop. 206 also guarantees workers access to earn up to five paid sick days annually that can also be used for family illness, domestic violence issues or public health emergencies. Employees will be allowed to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked beginning July 1, 2017. Almost one million Arizonans will be impacted by this provision. Prop 206 a Revenue Tool for AZ Schools At a time when Arizona schools are in desperate need of funding, Proposition 206 could be a bright spot to help boost schools across our state. Richard Sims, the Chief Economist for the National Education Association, says Arizona's schools and other local governments stand to gain through responsible allocation of tax revenue generated through higher wages and increased spending. Victory for Arizona's Working Families Minimum wage, earned paid sick days ballot initiative passes at the polls "An increase in wages gives low wage workers more opportunity to spend," Sims said. "Workers in Arizona tend to spend their money in the state, making them subject to sales taxes that government budget decision-makers could potentially reinvest in schools." Using a hypothetical earnings model of $100 million in tax revenue, Sims says Arizona's local governments could potentially see a gain of around $12.5 million, which would off-set estimated education budget costs of $7.1 million based on their share of the state's total employment. "The government could pay for the added costs of higher wages and still come out over $5 million ahead," Sims said. With millions of dollars in education cuts since the recession, Arizona consistently ranks near the bottom in per-student funding across all 50 states. Sims also sees the expansionary effect raising the minimum wage for school employees would have on the overall economy. "When a bus driver or cafeteria worker has increased income, they buy a little more at the local grocery store, they might go to the local theater, shop a little more and stimulate the economy." Sims added. The Arizona Education Association (AEA) has been a strong supporter of Proposition 206, which, in addition to raising the minimum wage also advocates for employers to provide access to earned paid sick days for workers. AEA President Joe Thomas emphasized the importance of the provision, saying "Prop. 206 will help keep our classrooms healthier while improving the education of our state."

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