Union leaders launched an initiative drive Friday for a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage in Nevada to $6.15 an hour, $1 more than the federal standard.
"This campaign seeks to raise the quality of life for our most vulnerable citizens," said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO in Nevada. "It's about basic fairness."
The organization, along with The Citizenship Project, filed a petition with the Secretary of State's Office in Las Vegas and said they will begin collecting signatures at the Democratic state convention this weekend in Las Vegas.
The group has until June 15 to gather signatures from 51,243 registered voters to qualify for the November ballot. The measure would have to pass twice - in November and again in November 2006 - before becoming part of the Nevada Constitution.
The proposal drew immediate opposition from some business groups.
"It would hurt certain businesses that are very competitive," said Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association.
Christina Dugan, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce government affairs director, said the city's business community was concerned by the proposal.
"I haven't seen the specifics of this plan, but there is a lot of statistical evidence that shows that higher wages really do decrease the number of jobs," Dugan said.
Twelve states have laws requiring a higher minimum wage than the federal standard, including California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. San Francisco has a higher minimum wage higher than California's.
The Nevada petition would exempt employers who pay health care benefits for their workers. Most casinos provide such benefits.
The Nevada Legislature has been reluctant to boost the minimum wage above the federal mark. There have been several unsuccessful efforts to pass such a law.
The AFL-CIO estimated 50,000 workers in Nevada make the federal requirement of $5.15 an hour. It said other workers earning up to $6.15 an hour would also see an increase if the measure is successful.