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Arkansas City Destroys Small Business Owner’s Livelihood—We’re Defending His Right to Earn a Living

April 27, 2023

Northwest Arkansas small business owner Steven Hedrick is good at his job, and customers want the service he provides. But the local city government is trying to run him out of business, in violation of the Arkansas Constitution. Now, the Goldwater Institute is standing up for Steven’s right to earn a living.

Steven’s customers rent out his roll-off dumpsters for large projects, then he disposes of the waste in accordance with state law and his permits. But last April, the recently incorporated city of Holiday Island enacted an ordinance requiring all residents to contract with the Carroll County Solid Waste District (CCSW) for regular trash services. And that’s not all: the city made CCSW, itself a government entity, the exclusive provider for all solid waste disposal in the city limits. In other words, no one else can pick up and dispose of solid waste in Holiday Island, including Steven, who has had to turn down multiple jobs a week due to this ordinance.

It’s not just unfair; this exclusive monopoly granted to CCSW by the Holiday Island government violates multiple provisions of the Arkansas Constitution, including its explicit prohibition of monopolies and its protections for the right to earn a living.

“I love this area, but this injustice makes it almost impossible for me to make a decent living,” Steven says. “Every week, I get calls from residents begging for my help, and since I feel like I have a moral duty to serve my community, I have no choice but to refer them to my biggest competitor. Customers want the service that I can offer—why won’t the government let me provide it?”

That’s why today, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to the city of Holiday Island on Steven’s behalf, demanding it amend the unconstitutional ordinance. “There is absolutely no justification for the city to create an exclusive monopoly that bans Steven and other qualified individuals from collecting and disposing of trash for residents who want their services,” says Goldwater Institute Staff Attorney Adam Shelton, lead attorney on Steven’s case.

The Arkansas Constitution explicitly prohibits the government from granting monopolies, as they are “contrary to the genius of a republic.” In fact, the Arkansas Supreme Court has explained that monopolies crush competition and deny citizens their right to freely practice their chosen profession. This prohibition is so important that the court has also explained that “no amount of judicial interpretation should ever be permitted to cause the slightest deviation from the clear language of the constitutional inhibition.”

The ordinance also deprives Steven of his constitutionally protected freedom to earn a living. The Arkansas Constitution protects all its residents right to acquire, possess, and protect property—and it prohibits the government from depriving an individual of life, liberty, and property without due process of law. This prohibition finds its roots in Magna Carta, and has long been interpreted as protecting an individual’s substantive right to earn a living. But the city of Holiday Island is imposing this exact prohibition on Steven—without any compelling reason to justify the deprivation.

The Goldwater Institute is the nationwide leader in safeguarding Americans’ the right to earn a living. The Institute has passed its Right to Earn a Living Act, which requires the government to show there is a need for restricting this fundamental right, in multiple states. And Goldwater has a track record of successfully standing up for Americans when the government tries telling them what jobs they can and cannot do. In Arkansas and across the country, Goldwater will always fight to protect Americans’ freedom to earn an honest living in the profession of their choice.

You can read our demand letter here.



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