Lawsuit challenged constitutionality of 2013 law barring local governments from exceeding Arizona minimum wage within their jurisdictions
Aiken Schenk attorney Shawn Aiken and Flagstaff co-counsel Mik Jordahl successfully represented the Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition in a 2015 challenge to a 2013 law that reserved to the State the power to establish Arizona’s minimum wage.
The legal action was settled June 29, 2015, in favor of the plaintiffs, after Attorney General Mark Brnovich agreed to a Maricopa County Superior Court judgment stating that the 2013 law limiting minimum-wage increases conflicted with Proposition 202.
As a result of the settlement, Arizona counties, cities and towns have the power to set, within their jurisdictions, a higher minimum wage than that required by the State (currently $8.05 an hour). On April 1, 2016, the Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition announced a voter initiative to gradually raise, over the next five years, the minimum wage in that city to $15 per hour by 2021. The minimum wage for tipped workers would be raised to that level by 2026.
That power was vested in local governments after Arizona voters approved Proposition 202, the Arizona Minimum Wage Act, in 2006. The Act provided for a statewide minimum wage and requirements for automatic increases. The Act also stated that a “county, city, or town may by ordinance regulate minimum wages and benefits within its geographic boundaries but may not provide for a minimum wage lower than that prescribed in this article.”
In 2013, the Arizona legislature passed A.R.S. § 23-204 to provide that only the State may regulate employee benefits, including compensation. That law terminated local governments’ power – granted by the voters in 2006 with the passage of Proposition 202 – to set a higher local minimum wage.
In the lawsuit, the Coalition contended that the 2013 law violated Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution, which the voters amended in 1998 through passage of the Voter Protection Act. The Act requires a three-fourths vote of both the House and Senate to amend a voter-approved measure, and any legislative amendments must advance or be consistent with the original purpose of the measure. The 2013 legislation fell short of the three-fourths vote requirement and, the plaintiffs successfully argued, undermined the voters’ intent as stated in Proposition 202.
In the news:
Flagstaff Group Sues to Raise Minimum Wage, Arizona Republic, April 14, 2015
Court: Arizona Cities Can Raise Minimum Wage, Arizona Republic, June 30, 2015
Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition Launches Citizen Initiative to Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour over Five Years, Press Release, April 1, 2016