As election day approaches, it is important for Arkansas voters to understand the impact their vote may have on social issues within their community.
Issue 5 is centered around raising minimum wage over a period of two years. Some trust that increasing minimum wage is the answer to decreasing poverty and the elevating use of social welfare programs. Others are confident increasing minimum wage will bankrupt small businesses, and lead to fewer employment opportunities within the state.
The truth is every Arkansan will benefit in some way from increasing the minimum wage.
The ballot title reads in full as: "An act to amend the Arkansas Code concerning the state minimum wage; the act would raise the current state minimum wage from eight dollars and fifty cents ($8.50) per hour to nine dollars and twenty-five cents ($9.25) per hour on January 1, 2019, to ten dollars ($10.00) per hour on January 1, 2020, and to eleven dollars ($11.00) per hour on January 1, 2021."
Issue 5 is not proposing a raise in minimum wage exclusively for low-income families. Issue 5 is simply proposing a state increase of the hourly wage for individuals who currently earn a working wage of $8.50 per hour. In essence, raising minimum wage will reduce the income gap and inequality of income earned among individuals in the Arkansas working class.
Issue 5 is not a solution for resolving poverty in Arkansas in and of itself. Individuals who earn low wages are not necessarily living in low-income families. Arkansas' working class is comprised of many different scenarios of people such as students who live with parents, spouses whose partners maintain higher wages, and individuals working more than one job. Just as low wages do not equate to a low-income family, individuals who are considered poor may not necessarily earn low wages. Many individuals among the working class earn high wages and work a minimal amount of hours. Increased minimum wage will only benefit low-income families and the poor if they are among the working class earning $8.50 an hour.
Issue 5 will not curtail the use of social programs unless it is combined with creating and implementing policies and programs which more effectively address the reduction of poverty in Arkansas. The need shown by recipients currently accepting assistance from social welfare programs will only decrease if current recipients are among the working class earning $8.50 an hour. Social welfare programs will only experience a reprieve if their current recipients are among low-wage workers who qualify for the increased wage.
For every research study that supports findings of job loss, there are studies that don't find job loss as a result of increasing minimum wage. Both sides have found increasing minimum wage does support a higher standard of living, which in turn creates a stable work force. Increasing minimum wage also acts as an incentive for those who are not currently working due to offerings of low wages. Increasing the standard of living only leads to a more balanced socioeconomic community.
Increasing minimum wage directly affects workers with employment that does not adequately provide a reasonable income to support the minimum standard of living. Currently, an individual working one full-time job paying minimum wage ($8.50 per hour) earns an annual salary of less than $18,000. Adequately maintaining a minimum standard of living while supporting oneself and/or raising a family on an annual salary of $18,000 is almost impossible. It is especially impossible with the cost of groceries, basic needs and health care on the rise, and minimum wage at a standstill.
I believe Issue 5 is important and should be passed. I ask that all Arkansans turn their focus from perceived negative effects and unrealistic outcomes and begin to focus on positive long-term effects such as supporting a better standard of living, cultivation of a stable work force, and reducing extreme economic inequality in Arkansas. I also ask that we join together as a community to support Issue 5 by voting yes to raising minimum wage in Arkansas.
Allison Jordan lives in Hot Springs. She works in public service and is currently a graduate student in the online master's of social work program at the University of Southern California.
Editorial on 10/18/2018
Print Headline: Pass Issue 5