As part of a national movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, some Little Rock workers plan to convene the city’s first wage board Tuesday.
Little Rock’s four-member board is made up of Democratic State Representatives Charles Blake and Vivian Flowers, the chair of Arkansas Community Organizations Donna Massey, and Revered Stephen Copley, who led the recent voter-approved effort to gradually raise the minimum wage in Arkansas to $8.50 by 2017.
“Wage boards have been around the country for a number of years and they all vary depending on the circumstances as to whether they come and listen or come and listen and issue a report. But there seems to be a deep concern in our country that folks are working hard and they’re just not able to get out from behind the eight ball,” said Copley.
Little Rock’s board hopes to capitalize on the success of a similar group in New York. In September, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a proposal made by that state’s Wage Board, which he appointed, that would gradually increase the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 per hour. In contrast, Little Rock’s board has been organized by workers and will carry no official legislative power.
Donna Massey said their goal is initially to listen and gather stories.
“In Arkansas we’re going to start with the testimonies. We don’t know if we will expand or accomplish what some groups have accomplished in other cities but I will say that we want to spark the discussion,” she said.
Republican State Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who is not a part of the effort, cautions Little Rock against following the lead of larger cities. Hutchinson has a degree in economics and believes the issue is more complex than most people think.
“My fear is that by doubling [the minimum wage] you’re going to drive jobs out of the city of Little Rock. And they’ll move to Maumelle or North Little Rock or Saline County… or maybe even out of the state,” Hutchinson said.
The first meeting of Little Rock’s wage board will be tonight at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock.