The minimum wage bump didn’t make it into the coronavirus relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, but Democratic lawmakers are unlikely to drop the issue.
The contentious piece of legislation would have gradually raised the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and phased out subminimum wages for tipped workers.
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Why Arizona restaurant leaders clash on the issue
It failed in the Senate earlier this month. Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona split on their votes, with Sinema giving the minimum wage increase a resounding thumbs-down.
Sinema released a statement saying in part that the “Senate should hold an open debate and amendment process on raising the minimum wage, separate from the COVID-focused reconciliation bill.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who introduced the legislation, indicated to CNN’s Anderson Cooper it won’t be the last time Congress votes on the bill. But Arizonans aren’t in agreement with how the potential minimum wage increase could impact restaurant industry workers.
What’s the minimum wage in Arizona right now?
At $12.15 an hour, Arizona’s minimum wage is already among the highest of the 50 states.
Arizona’s minimum wage got a modest increase of 15 cents on Jan. 1 and has already risen four times in the last four years. In 2016, voters passed Proposition 206, a statewide ballot measure that increased Arizona’s minimum wage:
- From $8.05 an hour to $10 in 2017.
- To $10.50 in 2018.
- To $11 in 2019.
- To $12 in 2020.
But employers may pay servers and other tipped workers, such as baristas and bartenders, up to $3 an hour less than the minimum wage. If tips don’t bring those workers up to minimum wage, then employers are required to pay the difference.
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The Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which did not pass with the COVID-19 relief package, would have increased the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
It also would gradually phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers, requiring employers to pay all workers at least $15 an hour by 2027. This includes youth workers and workers with disabilities who currently make a subminimum wage.