Flagstaff delays action after backlash over minimum wage law

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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (AP) -

The Flagstaff City Council hasn't yet taken action on a local minimum wage law despite sharp division on the issue.

The council on Tuesday heard more than two and a half hours of commentary on the effects of Proposition 414, which set the city's minimum wage at $15 an hour, reported The Arizona Daily Sun.

"I think we understand the level of fear that's coming from all sides of the issue," said Mayor Coral Evans.

A group called Elevate Flagstaff has turned in a petition to amend local law in favor of keeping Flagstaff minimum wage at the state minimum. The petition is expected to take two or three weeks to process.

[READ MORE: Group wants special election to change minimum wage increase in Flagstaff]

Council member Jim McCarthy said he believed that the city did need an increase in the local minimum wage and that it would be ok to put the issue back on the ballot. McCarthy argued, however, that voters need more than one option on the ballot and said it wouldn't be inappropriate to wait until November 2018.

Another council member, Charlie Odegaard, said waiting two years would be unfair to those who signed the Elevate petition.

"We have a lot to ponder," said Vice Mayor Jamie Whelan. "It's going to take some time. We've just got to figure out how to do it."

Several speakers at Tuesday's meeting urged the council to amend or repeal Proposition 414, which they argued would protect jobs, businesses and nonprofit organizations that provide services to the disabled.

Other city residents spoke up to say they are grateful for a wage increase that helps them support their families.

"I started working 10 years ago for $4.50 plus tips," said Maria Becerra, speaking through a Spanish translator. "In the last five years my wages have risen 55 cents."

Becerra said she has worked cleaning and serving in hotels and restaurants in Flagstaff for 14 years. Her family "can't even dream of vacation," she said, adding that "we're not asking for a favor. Would you have what you do without us?"

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