Saturday, January 16, 2016

Arizona Legislature going back to the future: now they want to bring back the company store

...If they (the state's Republicans) want to go with a "carrot-and-stick" approach to lowering the state's minimum wage, they should at least offer a real carrot, and not a mirage...

In the past, one of the methods that large employers used to keep their employees destitute (and easily pliable) was the practice of paying the employees in "scrip" that could only be used in a company-owned store or otherwise returned to the company as payment for needs like housing.

The desperation and spiritual weariness this practice imposed upon its victims was best expressed lyrically in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the song "Sixteen Tons" (the best-known version was performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford, but his version was neither the first nor the last).

Fast forward to 2016.

State Rep. Karen Fann (R-Prescott) has proposed HB2148.

As written, it would allow employers to count the cost of "board, lodging, or other facilities" that are provided to employees as part of their employment toward the calculation of wages paid to employees.

It would primarily impact workers in low-wage industries like hotels, resorts, and apartment management (and others) where employees are required to live at or close to their workplaces.

The "carrot" that Fann put in her proposal is a repeal of the provision in state law that prohibits municipalities and counties from raising the minimum wage requirement is their areas.

The problem with that?

That section of law already doesn't apply to "charter" cities.

Cities become eligible to become charter cities when they reach a population of 3500 and create and enact a voter-approved charter.  Not all eligible cities in the state have become charter cites but the cities that are most likely to raise the local minimum wage (Flagstaff, Tucson, Phoenix, Tempe, Douglas) are already charter cities.

Now, even if this measure goes forward, it doesn't seem likely to pass (as minimum wage law in AZ is "voter protected", it would take a 3/4 vote of the lege to do anything to change the law and that would mean that some Democrats would have to vote for it) nor does it seem likely to survive a court challenge if it does pass (per the Voter Protection Act, any legislative changes to law directly approved by the voters have to further the intent of the act...and Fann's proposal most assuredly does NOT).  

Still, it's a not-very-subtle shot across the bow of labor in AZ, warning labor that attacks on living wages in AZ will continue unabated.

No comments: