Local & Regional News
2:20 pm
Sat February 22, 2014

Pryor Jumps On Minimum Wage Hike Bandwagon

The Give Arkansas A Raise Now (GARN) petition drive kicked off Saturday morning, and one of the first to add his signature was Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). 

Former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker (l) listens as Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) endorses a petition drive to raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by 2017.
Credit David Wallace / KUAR News

"The bottom line is it's the right thing to do," said Pryor, who is embroiled in a heated re-election campaign with Congressman Tom Cotton (R-4th Dist.), his Republican challenger.

The ballot initiative would raise the state minimum wage from $6.25 to $7.50 an hour on January 1, 2015, to $8.00 an hour the following year and to $8.50 by January 1, 2017.

"America was build on a promise," Pryor reminded a small gathering of GARN supporters at the Bullock Temple CME Church in south Little Rock.

"And it's the promise that if you work hard, you have a chance to earn a decent living, to improve your station in life, to provide for your family, to create opportunity. And we need to fulfill that promise."

In practical terms, Arkansas's minimum wage currently is a meaningless figure since it is superseded by the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Arkansas is one of four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal rate.

Still, the proposal would give minimum-wage workers an increase of $1.25 an hour, if the federal wage floor stays where it is. President Obama is pushing legislation to raise to federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Pryor said he does not favor that. "I like the Arkansas approach better," he said in a question-answer session following his remarks. "I think the Arkansas effort is a bottom-up effort, it's a grassroots effort. You've got to have a petition drive. You've got to have a vote of the people."