Minimum Wage Roundup

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Here is a look at some of this week’s minimum wage stories from around the country. The American Booksellers Association is encouraging its members to reach out to town, county, or state officials to ensure they have a voice in any minimum wage discussions that take place in their communities.

Minnesota:  Advocates Call for Minneapolis to Increase Minimum Wage

Dozens of minimum wage advocates gathered at City Hall on Wednesday, June 29, to demand that Minneapolis increase the city minimum wage to $15 per hour. The workers and organizers — including the groups 15 Now, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) —  brought petitions with the signatures of approximately 20,000 people in support of a minimum wage increase, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Tribune noted that organizers of the rally have been working since late February to gather the 6,869 signatures of registered voters necessary to put a charter amendment proposal on the ballot in November. The signatures must now be examined by city officials, and if there are enough legitimate signatures to pass the required threshold, they will be sent to the city council. The council then determines if the proposal is a valid charter amendment.

Under the proposal, the city charter would require all businesses to increase wages beginning in 2017. The minimum wage for businesses with 500 or more employees would be $10 per hour starting in August 2017, with the amount increasing each year until 2020, when it would be $15 per hour. Smaller businesses would be required to increase wages incrementally until they reached $15 per hour in August 2022.

In a statement issued after the signatures were turned in, Steve Cramer, the president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, called on officials to not allow the city’s charter to be misused, the Tribune noted. “Minneapolis business owners should not be subjected to yet another unique mandate only in our city, especially since a recent statewide approved increase is still being implemented,” Cramer said.

Washington, D.C.: Mayor Signs Law Increasing Minimum Wage to $15 Per Hour

Last week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into a law a bill that will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, with ensuing hikes tied to inflation, according to media reports.

The bill had been unanimously approved by the city council, as reported by Reuters, which further noted that the increase was opposed by business owners who contend that the $15 wage will increase costs and lead to automation, thereby rendering the city less competitive with neighboring suburbs.

Washington joins California and New York in making $15 the hourly minimum wage. At least eight cities, including Seattle, have also approved a $15 minimum wage, the Reuters article noted.

D.C.’s base wage of $10.50 per hour increased by $1 per hour on July 1 under existing law.

It is estimated that the $15 minimum will raise wages for 114,000 workers, or about 14 percent of the District of Columbia's workforce, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute.

Bowser said in a statement that the minimum wage increase “will put more money in the pockets of working families, and put more people on the pathway to the middle class.”

However, some small business owners and policy experts believe the increase will harm D.C. businesses, forcing them to close or move to Virginia or Maryland, where the minimum wage is $7.25 and $8.25, respectively, according to the Daily Signal.

Carolina Story, co-owner of Straw Stick & Brick Delicatessen in D.C., told the Daily Signal that she is “in shock” about the minimum wage increase. In a Facebook post, Story wrote that small businesses “will either close, hike up their prices in the hopes that the consumer understands, or consolidate positions and eliminate jobs.” She added that D.C. is “making a mistake.”

According to a May survey of 100 small D.C. businesses, conducted by the Employment Policies Institute, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth, 35 percent stated that to offset the higher operating costs of a $15 wage per hour they would cut staffing levels. Thirty-seven percent said they would reduce employees’ hours or their business hours of operation, and 31 percent noted they would likely hire more-skilled or experienced employees.

One in five businesses surveyed said they would strongly consider moving to nearby Arlington, Virginia, where the minimum wage of $7.25 is less than half the rate proposed in D.C.