Minimum wage bill clears state Senate committee

Monday, February 27th 2006, 12:33 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Senate committee on Monday narrowly approved measures that would allow voters to decide on raising the minimum wage and permitting collective bargaining for municipal employees. The measures now go to the full Senate.

Under a joint resolution by Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, a statewide vote would be held on raising the $5.15 minimum wage by 50 cents each year for the next five years.

Another bill to increase the minimum wage by statute has been rejected by a House committee this year.

The vote was 4-3 along party lines in Leftwich's Business and Labor Committee to permit voters to decide whether the minimum wage should be increased.

By the same vote, the committee passed Sen. John Gumm's bill to allow collective bargaining by workers of any municipality if the voters approve of the idea.

Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a state law allowing municipal employees to unionize in cities with populations exceeding 35,000 people.

The state's highest court said the that statute, which called for binding arbitration, was an unconstitutional special law because it did not apply to workers in all municipalities.

Gumm said his new proposal did not have binding arbitration. It would allow an independent fact-finder to make recommendations on salaries and other issues, but the final decision would be left solely to a city's governing body.

The measure would affect sanitation workers and other employees. Police officers and fire fighters are now the only municipal employees permitted to unionize.