The State Chamber of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau took their fight against State Question 832 to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of the proposed state minimum wage increase.
SQ 832 seeks to amend the Oklahoma Minimum Wage Act and increase the minimum wage by untying the state from the federal minimum wage. The amendment, if approved, would require employers to pay employees at least $9 per hour beginning in 2025, $10.50 per hour beginning 2026, $12 per hour beginning in 2027, $13.50 per hour beginning in 2028 and $15 per hour beginning in 2029. The wage will increase with the cost of living, beginning in 2030, as measured by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
“I think the Court today got a really clear explanation from our team about what our problems with the state question are. We think it's blatantly unconstitutional. You can't delegate the authority to raise the minimum wage away to an unelected and unaccountable federal agency,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of The State Chamber.
Mithun Mansinghani, the attorney representing the Chamber and Farm Bureau, argued that the court must strike the proposition from going before voters in November, saying it is unconstitutional. The justices on the court asked Mansinghani several questions about why the court should strike the proposition.
Mansinghani said that SQ 832 has a misleading gist, which is a short statement that explains what the initiative petition does. The court has longstanding precedent about what needs to be included or not in the gist to make sure that it is not misleading to voters so that people know what they are signing onto.
“The Court asked some good questions, and I think our counsel did a good job of making the case. Beyond its unconstitutionality, SQ832 is an unnecessary solution in search of a problem that doesn't exist in Oklahoma. The market rate for an hourly job in Oklahoma is far above $7.25,” Warmington said. “All the businesses that we have as members are having trouble finding people. They are paying far above that wage."
The State Chamber's president says the wage is not the problem.
"We need to give more Oklahomans opportunities to upskill into the many available, high-paying jobs Oklahoma businesses have already created,” said Warmington. “There are thousands of good jobs paying far more than minimum wage but we don’t have enough personnel with those talents to fill the jobs. We’d like to focus more on developing and ensuring that Oklahomans have access to the education, training, and certifications that they need to fill the thousands of jobs that pay far more than minimum wage. That’s the problem that we ought to be seeking solutions together on. “