The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 15, 2014

State-mandated minimum wage draws ire across state

OKLAHOMA CITY — Those seeking a higher minimum wage in Oklahoma said they’re upset with Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to sign a bill that prohibits cities from establishing mandatory minimum wage or vacation and sick-day requirements.

Attorney David Slane, who wrote the initiative petition for Oklahoma City, said that the new law, inked Monday night, threatens an effort to raise Oklahoma City’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

“I think that we sort of lost common sense on this, and giving the people the right to vote on what they do in their city is really important,” Slane said. “It’s a real national debate with the $10.10 an hour minimum wage supported by the president, and this is sort of a microcosm of that debate.”

He said those collecting signatures will continue to do so with hopes of getting the 6,200 necessary to put the issue on the city’s ballot. The group is also considering a host of other options, including challenging the constitutionality of the new law and trying to get the 165,000 signatures necessary to amend the Oklahoma constitution.

Fallin previously has said she opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour because she was “concerned that it would destroy jobs, and especially small business owners can’t afford to increase their minimum wage.”

After the governor signed law, her office released a statement saying raising the wage is not a path to bring people out of poverty.

“Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs,” Fallin said. “Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.”

The Oklahoma Democratic Party took issue with the wage-hike ban in a news release Tuesday.

“Fallin positions herself as the candidate who supports home rule, except when the fat cats who donate to her campaign interests are at stake,” Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins said.

And Dave Ratcliff, secretary and treasurer for the CWA Local 6012, called Republicans’ stance “immoral,” adding: “How can they claim to be Christians but refuse to support the folks working two and three jobs so they can afford an apartment?”

Slane pointed out that a person making $7.25 an hour and working 40 hours a week for a year would make $15,080 before taxes, which is below the poverty level for a single mother.

Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, carried the bill in the House and said last week when it passed that the measure creates “safeguards that protect small businesses and consumers.”

“An artificial raise in the minimum wage could derail local economies in a matter of months. This is a fair measure for consumers, workers and small business owners,” Grau said.

Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa and the Senate co-author, said last week that the bill provides a safer business environment that will allow Oklahoma to remain economically competitive and have continued job growth.

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