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OKC minimum-wage initiative moves forward

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
(L-R) David Slane, Tim O'Connor and Garland Pruitt addressed the media Thursday afternoon, outside City Hall, to show support for a minimum-wage initiative petition.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – With President Barack Obama calling for Congress to increase the minimum wage to $10.10-per hour, local labor leaders and activists are making a similar call on the municipal level, filing an initiative petition Thursday afternoon with the Oklahoma City City Clerk Frances Kersey.

With a group including Central Oklahoma Labor Federation representative Tim O’Connor, NAACP President Garland Pruitt, criminal-defense attorney David Slane, Democrat congressional candidate Tom Guild, Oklahoma City council member Dr. Ed Shadid, State Sen. Constance Johnson (D-Forest Park), and House District 88 candidate Mark Faulk, among others, the point of the press conference was to emphasize their desire to bring up lower-level workers to a point where they are not struggling nearly as much to make ends meet.

The initiative petition, which is to be put forth to legal Oklahoma City voters over the next 90 days, is asking that a new Article XIV of the City Charter be adopted and would amend the charter and create a “Minimum Wage Act” raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma City to $10.10-per hour.”

Additionally, “tipped workers,” as those in restaurants, would be paid at least 45-percent of the minimum wage in cash wages from their employers and that would go into effect the first of 2016. Other tipped workers, it states, would be paid at least 60-percent of the minimum wage.

Also, if approved, there would be a “cost of living adjustment” that would allow for the wage to increase as cost of living prices increased, so as to avoid having to go to the voters seeking an increase, the group explained.

If approved by the voters, it would go into effect 90 days after the passage of the act, the petition states.

The federal government has not approved a minimum wage increase since 1996. President Obama signed an executive order recently decreeing that it be increased for federal contract workers.

Speaking to the media, O’Connor said that the effort would be “all grassroots, no paid signature gatherers.”

Slane noted that there is no reason lower-wage workers should not have increased wages. He then shared an anecdote involving a minimum-wage worker at Carl’s Jr. named Ron. This man told Slane tha the works 40-hours a week on minimum wage and is struggling to make it. Slane said folks like Ron need a minimum wage boost.

The group, standing outside City Hall, said “conservatives” cannot show the public that increasing the minimum wage would result in a loss of jobs, as Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently claimed.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in Oklahoma City would get this community on par with wage increases in 19 other states and Washington, D.C.

Faulk noted that the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico has the highest minimum wage in that state at $10.29-an-hour - and they are actually gaining jobs there, not losing them.

In fact, in 2012, Santa Fe Mayor David Cross told Reuters that the increase in his city had made a significant difference for low-income people and that minimum-wage increase efforts “should and could be repeated around the country.”

And Sen. Johnson added that with President Obama giving the “green light” for minimum wage increases on a federal level, it is important that workers locally were included in such local efforts, as seen with this initiative petition.

Noted the NAACP’s Garland Pruitt: “The citizens of Oklahoma, the masses, will benefit” from a minimum-wage increase.

“We know this isnt’ going to be easy,” O’Connor said. “The high-powered, elite folks are going fight this.”

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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