Prior to leading our Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I owned a chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores in Southern Arizona. Most of my workers were at minimum wage or slightly above. If this had taken effect while I was operating my stores, I would have immediately cut back on the hours that I was open and stopped expanding my chain. Many retailers will face the same dilemma. Fast food restaurant owners in other states where minimum wage has been dramatically increased are exploring the use of automation rather than workers. Others have passed along the cost of doing business to the consumers charging inflationary prices on their goods and services so they can remain in business.
I understand that at first glance this may sound like a good idea. How better to impact the economic conditions of our poorest residents? However, the reality is that if passed, Proposition 206 will hurt the very Arizonans that the initiative’s proponents claim to want to help. Forcing such a drastic increase from $8.05 to $12.00 an hour on our small businesses in this “one-size-fits-all” approach to wages is unfair.
Our chamber recently surveyed our members on the effect on their business of a 49% increase in the minimum wage. The overwhelming message we heard that it was too much too soon following the recent recession. Proposition 206 would leave our small business community with no good options. We heard projections from our member small businesses that the dramatic increase will force many businesses to reduce employee hours and staff levels, stop hiring or, as we’ve seen in other places that have instituted dramatic mandated wage hikes, close altogether. In addition, at $12 an hour they would focus on hiring more experienced workers instead of high school or college students. The minimum wage is for entry level jobs. Young people have to start somewhere, but one economic study says up to 75,000 Arizonans won’t get hired if the minimum wage is raised too sharply.
The national and local economy is still fragile, which makes Proposition 206 incredibly risky. Prop. 206 will lead to fewer jobs and fewer opportunities for hardworking Arizona families. Earlier this month the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and our Tucson Hispanic Chamber announced the formation of Protecting Arizona Jobs – No on 206, a committee that opposes Proposition 206. Please join the Tucson Hispanic Chamber on voting NO on Prop 206. The effort to defeat this job-killing bill will take every one of us speaking up and talking about the effect on our businesses. Business owners: we cannot sit idly by and just deal with the ramifications after the election. Join our effort by signing up today on our website at http://www.tucsonhispanicchamber.org/protecting-arizonas-jobs.
Lea Marquez Peterson is the President/CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber which serves over 1800 businesses in our bilingual and bicultural region. She is the Chair of the Protect Arizona Jobs – No on 206 Campaign.