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11/14/2013 6:00:00 AM
Arizona's minimum wage to creep upward in the New Year
Katherine Castillo
Katherine Castillo
Sophia Solis
Cronkite News

PHOENIX - For about three years, Katherine Castillo has worked as a hotel housekeeper earning Arizona's minimum wage of $7.80 an hour.

That hasn't been enough to pay her bills and attend college, which she says has been her dream.

"I want to go to school, but I have to pay bills. It's expensive," Castillo said.

Under a law Arizona voters approved in 2006, Castillo and others earning minimum wage will receive a 10-cent-per-hour increase to $7.90 starting Jan. 1. For tipped workers, the state minimum wage will rise from $4.80 to $4.90 per hour.

It will mark the fourth straight year that Arizona has had a higher minimum wage than the federal hourly rate of $7.25, which has remained the same since 2009.

Under the law, Arizona must increase the minimum wage if the state's cost of living increases as determined by the Consumer Price Index for Arizona. There was a 1.5 percent increase in the cost of living in Arizona since last year, according to Karen Axsom, director of the Industrial Commission of Arizona's Labor Department.

Of the 1.47 million Arizona workers paid at an hourly rate in 2012, 68,000 received the minimum wage or lower in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia had a minimum wage surpassing the federal minimum wage.

Rebekah Friend, Arizona AFL-CIO executive director and secretary/treasurer, said the law sets the bar for how the state values its workers.

"In 2006, you could be working 40 hours a week and still be below the poverty wage," she said. "That is not what this country is based on."

Friend also said that raising the minimum wage stimulates the economy because of the way minimum wage workers tend to spend their money.

"The people that are living on those wages are not putting huge chunks of their salary into 401(k)'s or retirement investment plans," she said. "They're basically living week to week so they are putting the money right back into the economy."

However, Rick Murray, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, said the law hurts the state's workforce because it goes against the ideals of a business where wages depend on the demand of a certain skill.

"I'm against the fact that the minimum wage is mandated by the government when it should be market-driven," he said.

Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association, said that raising the minimum wage forces higher operating costs on the food industry and can lead to layoffs.

"A dime here and a nickel there may seem innocuous to most people," Chucri said, "but restaurants cannot simply raise menu prices. It's too competitive of an industry."

Brad Flahiff, director of development at Barnett Management Co., which operates Burger King franchises in Arizona, said that constantly increasing the minimum wage hurts employees as well as employers.

"It harms the people who are doing better and those who either don't have those skills yet or are not performing at the same level," he said. "And yet we are forced to reward them the same way."

Castillo, the housekeeper, said 10 cents more an hour, which adds up to $4 more a week for a full-time worker, isn't enough to help her do more than survive.

"So far, I have been able to make ends meet, but I don't feel happy," she said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Article comment by: Desert Rat

Has Senorita Castillo not heard of student loans?

Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013
Article comment by: Rational Kingman Resident

@ V stokes 25/hr is a little more than I had in mind. I really think 10 would be fair for now as a shorterm fix. Maybe lower for kids under 18. I guess the issue isn't so much the minimum wage, but rather the fact that American businesses no longer feel a sense of social responsibility to the communities that they do business in. It's become about nothing more than absolute greed and our whole country is suffering as a result. These minimum wage workers aren't asking to be rich, they're just asking for enough to cover rent.

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2013
Article comment by: Al DiCicco

In 1968, min. wage was $1.60 and we could buy 5 gallons of gas. In 1976 at age 16 I earned $5.50 an hour, which bought 11 gallons. Today, if you compare decreased value of the dollar, and do the math for annual inflation, we would have to earn $23 an hour to compare to 1968 when we could actually live quite well, and yes on min. wage. The cause is the deliberate devaluation of our currency by the Federal Reserve Bank combined with increased taxation, permit fees and the desire for corporations to have low pay wage slaves. Poverty has climbed high into the middle class now making more working poorer. Many like having slaves, but not many want to be one for 2.5 gallons per hour in FRB petro-dollars. Hyperinflation is destroying us. Ending the use of inmates at .50 cents an hour would help as well.

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2013
Article comment by: B B

Who cares, find another job that pays more.

Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

"earn a living wage..."

Please, you seem a reasonable person. Others have refused to answer, but maybe you will. What exactly is a "living wage"? Do we pay an 18 y/o living at home the same as we pay a 30 y/o with 2 kids for the same job? How do we legislate that w/o running up against anti discrimination laws?

Do we pay everyone $25/hr and the 18 y/o lives like a king while the 30 y/o is finally able to rent a 1 bedroom and buy a 5 y/o car?

I'm serious....what is a "living wage"? I always thought it meant living within your budget...

Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

And there is complete lack of compassion, understanding, caring and benevolence as well.

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: Rational Kingman Resident

I for one am sick and tired of the way that people are demonizing minimum wage earners. Should fast food workers earn as much as doctors or educated professionals? Absolutely not. However it is my belief that everyone who is willing and able to work and contribute to society should have a RIGHT to earn a living wage so they can have a place to live and food to eat. How is someone supposed to better themselves when they're working themselves to death to not even have enough money for food and shelter? Where has all of the empathy and compassion gone in this country? No wonder our country is in decline. I've worked many years in the restaurant business and will be the first to admit that there are plenty of freeloaders and lazy good for nothings working for minimum wage. However there are plenty of decent hard working people working these jobs who for one reason or another can't catch the breaks needed to improve their economic status. Luck matters just as much as work ethic when it comes to success. When you make blanket statements about ANY group of people all that you have proven is how ignorant you are.

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Altridge

The reality is Robert, un-skilled and under-educated people have to take the minimum wage jobs. What do you think all the griping is about? They aren't going away. Truth must be told. And it's really dirty for the tip earners employers to use tips as part of their pay. What a gipe! That needs to be illegal!

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: gun owner 000

The sad part about raising the minimum wage 10 cts is the fact that the person who made the decision gave themselves a $40,000 raise this year, and only works part-time. Why is it we pay somebody huge sums of money to control our spending? I could buy a lot of "T" shirts and Levis for what one $3000 business suit costs.

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: The Fox Hound

I don't know what Ms. Costillo is complaining about. Anybody should be able to live on 7.25 an hour right. Why doesn't she pull herself up by her boot straps and become a CEO of a major Corp. Their income has risen from 40 times what a worker made in the 70's to 400 times what a worker makes now. Seems fair to me I mean how important are workers anyway. How can you expect business owners to open a new franchise every couple of years if they have to pay what someone would consider a fair wage. I'm sure the regular crew will tell her to go back to Mexico.
Also can someone explain to me that just because I choose to leave someone a tip that their boss can pay them less. My wife worked for a restaurant for ten years for a little more than 2 dollars an hour while the owner built himself a million dollar house in Havasu. Yeah that's fair cause he didn't have to work for tips.

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: kingsman mr

bbboooo wwhhhooooo we all have bills and want to go to college--get a second job---or go on a diet

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: Robert Thomas

Again, minimum wage jobs are not meant to live off of!!! They are meant for teens entering the workforce or part time 2nd jobs. I am tired of hearing "we cant live off of this"... better yourself and work your way into a job that you can support your family on!

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