01/11/2017

The Human Costs Of Arizona's Minimum Wage Hike

Laurie Roberts, Foundation for Economic Education

Thiis week, Matt Redmann’s employees are getting raises as Arizona’s minimum wage rises to $10 an hour.

It should be cause for celebration.

But there will be a cost and Redmann is hoping his employees won’t be the ones to pay it – with pink slips.

“I’m going to work my butt off to avoid that from happening,” he told me.

Redmann is executive director of Epi-Hab Phoenix Inc. I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t.

An Opportunity for Those Who Need It

Epi-Hab has been around for 59 years. The non-profit was founded by a group of people, including Dr. John Green and Charles Barrow, who went on to start Barrow Neurological Institute.

The goal is simple: to provide jobs for people who suffer from epilepsy and other challenges that make finding work difficult – or, for a fair number of Redmann’s employees, impossible even.

Epi-Hab doesn’t do fundraisers and it doesn’t get government grants. It survives by providing affordable services – labor intensive work that businesses and government agencies contract with Redmann to provide.

Jobs like packaging and shipping metal frames that transform iPads into cash registers. Like assembling and fulfilling orders for devices that electrify acoustic guitars.

Jobs like cleaning and inspecting meters for Salt River Project. Like assembling tiny valves for a catheter sold by an Arizona manufacturer of medical equipment. That work was being done in Mexico, Redmann tells me, but came back to Arizona two years ago because Epi-Hab could offer a competitive rate.

Redmann’s worried about what happens now that Arizona's minimum wage has rocketed from $8.05/hour to $10. Epi-Hab employs about 30 people and most of them earn less than $10 an hour.

Or they did, until this week.

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