Arizona Chamber warns $15 minimum wage could harm businesses, individuals

Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry officials recently said increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could have "dangerous unintended consequences" on businesses and individuals.

Minimum wage policy was cast into the spotlight not only by the candidates at the recent Republican presidential debate but also the union protesters who gathered outside the event demanding a federal minimum wage hike to $15 per hour.

With the exception of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Republican presidential candidates are opposed to a minimum wage boost while Democrats support a big hike. While Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said an increase would kill job growth, Democrat Bernie Sanders called the current federal minimum wage a starvation wage. Hillary Clinton called instead for a more conservative $12 federal minimum wage; and President Barack Obama only seeks a raise to $10.10.

Issues concerning the minimum wage often go under-reported, however. “(The) Fight for $15, if successful, is poised to have dangerous unintended consequences for the very individuals the movement is claiming to want to help,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Glenn Hamer said.

Hamer cited youth unemployment in the African-American community, echoing Ben Carson’s concerns over the minimum wage’s effect on young African-Americans seeking to enter the labor force. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the unemployment rate for black youth at 25 percent.

Additionally, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) warned that raising the minimum wage will make hiring people more expensive than a machine and force businesses into automation. Wendy’s is at least one fast-food enterprise currently exploring technology initiatives.

“The Arizona Chamber will vigorously oppose any wrong-headed attempts at a state or local level to institute a minimum wage that harms businesses of all sizes and reduces employment opportunities for young people and individuals in entry level positions,” Hamer said.

Despite potential negative consequences, California and New York are two states already taking action to raise the minimum wage to $15.

“This debate is more about whether workers on the first rung of the career ladder deserve a raise; it’s about a path to upward mobility,” Hamer said. “Remember that securing a place in the middle class requires having a job. Unfortunately for those trying to land one, their supposed champions are making things harder for them.”

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