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Arizona minimum wage hike has benefited food service workers


PHOENIX — The minimum wage increase Arizona voters approved several years ago appears to be having a positive impact on one group of workers.

A study by the Grand Canyon Institute, a Phoenix-based think tank, looked at how the passage of Proposition 206 in late 2016 has impacted food service workers.

The measure gradually raises the state’s minimum wage until reaching $12 an hour by the year 2020. The minimum wage is currently at $11 an hour.

“We found that in Arizona there was a significant increase in both their hourly wages and their incomes,” said Dave Wells, the institute’s research director.

The study comes as Congress is considering a bill to gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. It passed the House of Representatives last week and faces slim chances of passing in the Senate.

The study by the Grand Canyon Institute also found that while workers might have lost about one hour of employment each week, there’s no clear evidence of job losses in the food service sector since Proposition 206 went into effect.

“Certainly this is good news in the sense that people who are low-wage workers, many of whom struggle to make ends meet, are in a much better position in Arizona as a consequence of Prop 206 than they were before,” Wells said.

He added the study focused on food service workers because they make up the largest group of low-wage workers.

The Grand Canyon Institute did another study several weeks before Proposition 206 passed. That study found the minimum wage hike would benefit about 800,000 Arizonans and about 13,000 jobs would be lost.

Garrick Taylor, spokesperson for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the latest study by the Grand Canyon Institute takes a narrow look at the impact of the minimum wage hike on Arizona’s economy.

He said for the most part, small businesses are not left with good options when they face wage mandates like these.

“They could slow hiring,” Taylor said. “They could eliminate jobs or they could automate, which is something we’ve seen more of in the food service industry and it makes jobs just go away.”

He added Arizona’s minimum wage increase hasn’t been tested during a recession.

“We happen to be enjoying a really robust economic growth,” he said. “When the economy takes a downturn, let’s keep an eye on how laws like this affect hiring.”

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