'A Solution In Search Of A Problem': Push To Raise Minimum Wage Is Challenged

The push to increase the minimum wage in Oklahoma was challenged in the state's supreme court. The proposal states the minimum wage would rise to $15 an hour over the next five years, but some say the proposal is flawed.

Tuesday, November 21st 2023, 5:38 pm

By: News 9, Haley Weger

A push to increase the minimum wage is challenged in the state supreme court. State Question 832 would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next five years, but the state chamber says the proposal has some flaws.

“Oklahoma ranks 47th in the country in low-wage workers. There's about 170,000 workers that are working below poverty level wages so we know those folks are out there,” said England.

The minimum wage in Oklahoma was set at $7.25 an- hour in 2008 and hasn’t been raised since. Raise the Wage Oklahoma filed SQ832 to more than double that. “Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans actually who are working full time just struggle to make ends meet, and that's not right, it's time to raise the wage,” said Amber England, spokesperson for Raise the Wage Oklahoma. “It's just time that people that work for a living should just be able to get by.”

England explains after years of trying to get this passed through the state legislature were blocked by lawmakers, Raise the Wage Oklahoma is taking it to a vote of the people. The grassroots effort by Raise the Wage Oklahoma was challenged in the State Supreme Court this week, by the State Chamber, which calls SQ832 unconstitutional. “Businesses are desperate for employees; they can't find enough people to fill the jobs that they have and so they're already responding by significantly raising wages,” said Ben Lepak, Executive Director of the State Chamber Research Foundation. “State question 832 is a solution in search of a problem.”  

On top of that, Lepak explains the chamber's main problem with the state question, is the inflation escalator that will rely heavily on federal mandates, instead of keeping the issue at the state level. “That would raise the minimum wage automatically every single year based on a number produced by the US Department of Labor that's really based on price increases and cost of living adjustments in large cities outside of Oklahoma,” said Lepak.

He explains this would not fall in line with Oklahoma's cost of living, and instead factor heavily cost-of-living in cities including New York and San Francisco. There is also no cap on the inflation escalator, and Lepak says if inflation continues the way it has been, the minimum wage could rise up to $35 an hour in the next decade, which would in turn hurt small businesses in Oklahoma and part-time workers.“That's an open-ended cost that would really significantly hamper businesses, particularly small businesses who may have part-time workers or employees who are trying to put themselves through school,” said Lepak. “If the state chamber wants to be on the record saying they're opposed to giving Oklahomans a raise - that's on them,” said England. “Too many Oklahomans are working full-time jobs, sometimes one or two jobs just to keep their lights on, put food on the table, and afford housing and it's time that we give those hard-working Oklahomans a raise,” said England.

The State Supreme Court will now decide whether or not to hear oral arguments from both sides, before moving forward with SQ832.

Related Article:

Petition To Raise Minimum Wage Fought By Okla. Chamber Of Commerce


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