Convincing Mesa’s lowincome and Hispanic residents to vote in November is vital to the success of an initiative to raise the minimum wage in Arizona.
Organizers of the Arizona Minimum Wage Campaign said they are focusing heavily on Mesa and already have begun going door to door to educate potential voters about the issue and ask them to register and vote.
It will be challenging, they said, because the targeted demographic is typically among the least likely to vote. Other areas of focus are Glendale and south Phoenix.
“This campaign is only going to be won by the people who come out to vote,” said Alicia Russell, chairwoman of the Arizona ACORN political action committee.
Russell, whose office is in Mesa, said mobilizing Hispanic voters is a matter of “huge, huge importance,” in part because a minimum wage increase would have a positive impact on many of them.
“It’s going to be massive in the Hispanic community,” she said during a meeting Tuesday to explain the group’s campaign strategy.
The initiative would raise the minimum hourly wage statewide to $6.75 from the current $5.15 for workers who do not rely on tips.
It also contains a built-in annual increase based on inflation.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a national association that seeks to benefit the working and unemployed poor. The Arizona campaign also has strong support from labor unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Jim McLaughlin, president of the UFCW Local 99 in Phoenix, participated in a panel discussion about the initiative Tuesday with Russell, Jen Kern of the ACORN Living Wage Resource Center in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Jarrett Maupin of the National Action Network and Beth Schulman, a civil rights attorney and author of the book “The Betrayal of Work: How Low Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans.”
Some businesses, including restaurant chains, oppose the increase and are contributing money to defeat it. McLaughlin said proponents of the wage increase hope to raise $2 million, but they expect to be outspent by the opposition.
Kern said ACORN recently spearheaded successful minimum wage initiatives in Nevada and Florida.
Although a national minimum wage increase has been working its way through Congress, Kern said Arizona’s initiative is still important because it would offer immediate pay increases and does not include any strings such as a tax cut for the rich.