Petition started to raise minimum wage in Oklahoma City

The Central Oklahoma Labor Federation is leading the charge on a petition to raise Oklahoma City's minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.

Supporting the initiative at City Hall Thursday was Mark Faulk, candidate for House District 88, Senator Connie Johnson, Councilman and Mayoral Candidate Dr. Ed Shadid, and local NAACP President Garland Pruitt.

"My name is Ron and I work at Carl's Jr.," read attorney David Slane in a note after filing the petition, "I have to worry about rent, groceries, electric, a car, insurance and there's nothing left after taxes."

Slane says the initiative should help people like Ron. He says they're trying to fight what he calls a war on the working poor.

"There's no reason why Oklahoma City doesn't deserve the best for its people that live here," he said.

Some around the Metro love the idea.

"It would be very hard for a family to survive on 7.25 an hour, even if mom and dad both were working," said Carolyn Lawrence.

Others aren't so sure. Local business owners say this could hurt them, and they argue that workers shouldn't be on minimum wage levels for long.

"That's a starting point," said business owner Marty Minor,"you want to start there and progress to something else."

OCU economist Dr. Jonathan Willner agrees. And says there are tough stories of working poor families, but the large share of people who make minimum wage are not the first income for their household.

He says the increase could make a positive change, but thinks the petition misses the problem. He says the real issue is a less competitive market and too many workers without many skills.

"It's a question of observing the symptoms and treating the symptoms or observing the symptoms and treating the cause," he said.

Some folks believe the wage debate may never get resolved.

"A dog chasing his tail!" said Ken Bell.

But nothing can damper the spirits of the people who say they're just doing what's right.

"It's just a beginning. But we have to start somewhere," Slane said.

Faulk says the petition is in response to Senate bill 1023, written by Tulsa Senator Dan Newberry and co-sponsored by Fairview Rep. Joe Hickman, the new Speaker of the House, that would bar municipalities from setting their own minimum wage.

The petition has 90 days to gather 6,200 signatures from Oklahoma City residents.

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