Arkansas to increase minimum wage in 2019

(WMC Action News 5)
Published: Jan. 1, 2019 at 4:49 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A new year means new laws in the Mid-South, and that includes a minimum wage increase in Arkansas.

A new party in control of half of Congress means a new push to raise the minimum wage.

Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi signaled her support to increase the minimum wage nationwide to $15 an hour. However, it faces an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Senate and White House.

"I think going forward it’ll be really interesting to see if it’s going to be more state-level increases or more ballot measures or through the legislature or if more states are going to wait to see what happens at the federal level,” said Samantha Summers with the Employment Policies Institute.

Some states, like Arkansas, aren’t waiting. In November, Arkansas voters approved a ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2021.

The first portion of that increase goes into effect New Year’s Day, when it’ll be raised to $9.25.

Although Tennessee hasn’t raised its minimum wage, Memphis and Shelby County government workers now make $15 an hour.

“If you work every day, you should be able to learn a living,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “That’s all the $15 an hour movement is says. It says if you work hard, every day then you should be able to earn a living. That’s about as American as apple pie.”

However, Summers said minimum wage laws hurt small businesses.

“At the end of the day, businesses have to look at their checkbooks and say 'Is it even worth staying in business? You know, we might have to let go these two employees,’” Summers said.

No matter where you stand on this issue, the debate won’t end any time soon.

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