In an effort to strengthen the state’s economy, Oklahoma has clamped down on efforts to raise the minimum wage.
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Monday prohibiting cities across the state from legislating increases in the minimum wage and employee benefits, including vacation or sick leave days.
The governor and her supporters contend that hiking minimum pay standards across various municipalities would harm local business communities.
Republican state Rep. Randy Grau told the Associated Press the bill creates “safeguards that protect small businesses and consumers.”
He explained, “This bill provides a level playing field for all municipalities in Oklahoma.” Grau added, “An artificial raise in the minimum wage could derail local economies in a matter of months. This is a fair measure for consumers, workers and small business owners.”
Republican state Sen. Dan Newberry, co-author of the measure, argued that it establishes a business-friendly climate that will enable Oklahoma to boost job growth and remain economically competitive.
“With the country just exiting the Great Recession and many businesses struggling to get by, it is imperative that these decisions be made at the state level and follow the compliance with the federal wage requirements,” Newberry told the AP.
Opponents of the legislation argue that it specifically compromises ongoing efforts to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in Oklahoma City.
Organizers have been attempting to collect enough signatures to bring the proposed minimum wage increase to the state ballot — they need over 80,000.
David Slain, the lawyer who wrote the Oklahoma City minimum wage petition, said he was disappointed in the governor’s decision.
Slain criticized the state legislature for removing “the right of the people to decide minimum wage.”
In a statement, Fallin defended her move, arguing that despite the claims of advocates, mandating higher minimum pay does not bring workers out of poverty.
“Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs,” Fallin said. “Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.
“Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers,” she said. “And it would do all of these things without even addressing the goal of reducing poverty.”
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