While some states and communities move to increase the minimum wage, in other areas of the country there is pushback as small business owners and managers worry about the effects an increase will have on their livelihoods.
Here is a look at some minimum wage stories from around the country:
- Arizona: Minimum Wage Increase Divides Flagstaff Community
- Iowa: Bill Being Considered to Bar Cities and Counties From Setting a Minimum Wage
- Maine: Small Businesses Talk Pros and Cons of Wage Increase
- New York: Increase Impacts Some Small Businesses
- Nevada: Democrats Eye Minimum Wage Increase
- Pennsylvania: Governor Proposes Minimum Wage Increase
A law passed in November that increases the Flagstaff, Arizona, minimum wage to $12 per hour in July 2017, and $15 by 2021, has caused a divide among community members, according to the Associated Press. On Tuesday, February 14, the Flagstaff city council held a meeting to determine whether to hold a special election in May on an initiative that would repeal the minimum wage increase.
The meeting attracted a large crowd of residents, both in support of and in opposition to the initiative. Elisha Dorfsmith, a Flagstaff resident, told AP that he believes the law should have exemptions that apply to entry-level and part-time employees. “It’s not even a left or right divide, it’s a community divide,” Dorfsmith said. “People are just at each other’s throats.”
Armando Bernasconi is the CEO of Quality Connections, a nonprofit that assists people with disabilities in finding housing and employment. He told AP that it will become harder for his business to find jobs for people if the scheduled increase to $12 per hour takes place this July. “It’s greatly impacting the people we serve, who are the most vulnerable in our community,” he said. “It’s really disheartening.”
One Flagstaff city councilmember, Jim McCarthy, reported that the council will try to create an amendment that delays implementation of the increase to $12 per hour.
In Iowa’s House of Representatives, Republicans are looking to pass a bill that prevents local governments from determining the minimum wage, as reported by the Associated Press. Thus far, four state counties have implemented, or plan to implement, minimum wage increases.
If the House bill is passed, it could curtail the state’s cities and counties from increasing the minimum wage above $7.25, the current state wage, the article noted. The bill would also override minimum wage increases that have already been approved.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he supports a “modest increase” to the state’s minimum wage. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R-Mason City) said that Republicans want a single state-wide minimum wage but are not looking to increase the minimum wage.
In Maine, this past fall voters approved a minimum wage increase from $7.50 per hour to $9 per hour, to go into effect in 2017. In Waterville, Maine, the Selah Tea Café told CentralMaine.com that the increase in wage resulted in a seven percent increase in the eatery’s prices.
Selah owner Bobby McGee said he was not against increasing the minimum wage, but he did make changes in his business to account for the wage increase, the article noted. Compounding the issue was a tax increase. McGee said he believed that the wage increase was too much too fast. He employs 12 people, some of whom were making more than the minimum wage. Because of that, McGee said that he increased wages across the board to maintain the business’ pay scale.
McGinley Jones, owner of the Sunrise Café and Bakery and Lubec Brewing Company and Taproom, both in Lubec, Maine, told CentralMaine.com that people should focus on the benefits that a higher wage provides people in communities. “There’s a lot of fear around this issue … but it’s not actually based in fact,” she said.
Jones continued, “Our business model is set with the precedent that if we take care of our employees and take care of our customers, then the money we need to exist will come, and that’s proven to be true….. If you have a sandwich and your friend’s hungry, you give them half, right?”
New York State has increased its minimum wage from $9 to $9.70 per hour, the first phase of an increase that will see the hourly minimum move to $15 in New York City by 2018 and in the rest of the state by 2019. And already, business owners are feeling the pinch, according to New York’s Democrat & Chronicle.
Eliot Fiks and Stacey Gould, co-owners of Whole in the Wall Foods in Binghamton, studied their expenses and revenues and found that they had just one choice in the face of the increased minimum wage: reduce staff hours, cutting a day from employees’ four-day-a-week schedule.
In addition, Fiks explained that he believes the new wage puts him at a competitive disadvantage compared to businesses over the state line in Pennsylvania that do not have to pay the same wage.
D&C noted that other business owners have said that they will be very cautious in adding staff as the minimum wage increases.
Mark Neumann of Upstate Brewing Company, a brewery in Elmira that has three employees, told D&C: “It will cause me to raise prices across the board and to hold off on hiring additional help.”
The D&C article noted that the increase will be felt more significantly by small businesses since large businesses may find it easier to streamline their processes or rely on automation.
With the Democrats back in control of the Senate and Assembly in Nevada, increasing the hourly minimum wage has become a hot-button issue, according to LasVegasNow.com. Democratic lawmakers have introduced bills to increase the wage to both $12 and $15, but there is pushback from state Republicans.
Assembly Bill 175 seeks to increase the wage to $15 per hour, while Senate Bill 106 proposes a more modest increase, to $12. “We have a robust, reflective agenda that is going to help propel every Nevadan toward greatness here,” Nevada State Senator Aaron Ford (D-NV), the Senate majority leader, told LasVegasNow.com.
However, Republicans and business owners argue that a wage increase would hurt business and drive up inflation, thereby negating the positive effects of a larger paycheck, as reported by the Associated Press.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, has not taken a position on increasing the minimum wage, though he has historically opposed a legislative mandate to increase the minimum wage, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants to increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $12 from $7.25 and claims that the increase would provide the state with more tax revenue and help to shore up the deficit, as reported by the Associated Press. However, the governor, a democrat, will have to convince the Republican-controlled legislature.
Republican lawmakers have not come out against an increase in the hourly minimum wage, but they aren’t advocating for an increase, either. Some lawmakers note that an increase would hurt business owners by forcing them to cut back on hiring, hours, and benefits. Lawmakers also argued an increase would hurt the job market for unskilled workers, AP noted.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) believes the federal government should deal with the issue, though he believes the lack of action in D.C. is forcing the state to act. “It’s an absolute problem of governing when the federal government has ceded the federal minimum wage,” Scarnati told AP. “They like to be involved in every state issue that they can get their fingers in, but when it comes to this, they have not done anything.”
The state’s constitution does not allow voter initiatives to raise the minimum wage, and communities can not set a wage that differs from the statewide wage.