OKLAHOMA CITY – Two dozen states will increase their minimum wage sometime this year, and at least two legislators want Oklahoma to join the list.
Employers would be required to pay their workers at least $10.50 an hour, “or the current federal minimum wage, whichever is greater,” starting in 2022, under Senate Bill 161 by state Sen. George Young, D-Oklahoma City.
Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, has introduced two measures that address the subject.
Senate Bill 101 would repeal the statute enacted in 2014 by which the Legislature assumed total control over minimum-wage measures in this state.
“As a matter of public policy and due to an overriding state interest, the Legislature hereby occupies and preempts the entire field of legislation in this state touching in any way mandated minimum wage and employee benefits regarding mandatory minimum number of vacation or sick leave days,” the statute decrees. “[N]o municipality or other political subdivision of this state shall establish a mandatory minimum number of vacation or sick leave days, whether paid or unpaid, or a minimum wage rate which an employer would be required to pay or grant employees.”
Hicks’ Senate Bill 125 would phase in a $2.75 per hour increase in the minimum wage in this state over a three-year period. It provides that regardless of what the prevailing federal minimum wage is, the rate in Oklahoma would be:
• $8.25 per hour starting in January 2022;
• $9.25/hour starting in January 2023;
• $10/hour starting in January 2024.
The minimum wage in Oklahoma is $7.25 per hour, the federal rate Congress established 111⁄2 years ago, on July 24, 2009.
Minimum wage floors will increase this year across the nation in 74 jurisdictions – 24 states and 50 cities and counties (see accompanying chart) – according to the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. The first federal minimum wage rate was set at 25¢ per hour in 1938, during the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That rate would be equivalent to about $4/hour in today’s money, officials report.
The legislation sets up the familiar debate about the financial impact on businesses struggling to recover from the crippling effects of the coronavirus pandemic versus the breadth of poverty in Oklahoma: more than 929,000 Oklahomans were enrolled in SoonerCare (Medicaid for low income residents) in November, including 325,465 adults and 603,552 children, and almost 600,000 Oklahomans – one- third of them children – cope with hunger each day.
The Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce and the State Chamber were contacted by the Ledger about the legislation filed to raise the minimum wage, but both organizations declined to comment.