Missourian: Mid-Missourians conflicted over raising the minimum wage

By Laura Murgatroyd, Sarah Hallam and Michelle Stoddart
Columbia Missourian, Nov 2, 2018. Also in St. Joseph's News Press, Warrensburg Daily Star, Houston Herald, Bonner County Daily Bee.

Proponents of raising the minimum wage say that businesses should be required to pay their workers enough to afford basics like housing and food. ...

A petition by Missouri Business for a Fair Minimum Wage has collected more than 500 [now over 675] signatures from business owners in Missouri in support of raising the minimum wage.

Dave Elman, owner of Fretboard Coffee, was one of those who signed.

Elman currently pays his workers above the state-mandated minimum wage. He said he’s never understood the logic that raising the minimum wage would hurt Missouri businesses.

“People with a little bit more money in their pockets are going to be able to spend a little more,” Elman said, hoping that the extra income workers earn will trickle down back to the small businesses.

Missouri residents currently working an average of 40 hours a week at the current minimum wage earn roughly $314 per week, just over $16,000 per year.

“The numbers just don’t add up,” Elman said in regard to living off of minimum wage and being able to pay for necessities such as rent and car payments.

“It’s very difficult if not impossible,” said Elman, emphasizing that minimum wage earners with children are hit that much harder.

One of Elman’s main reasons to support the minimum wage comes from the likelihood that better paid workers will create less of a turnover within his business. “Hiring and firing is my least favorite part of my job,” he said.

“Bringing new people on, while exciting, is always a risk because you don’t know how long they’ll stay,” Elman said. Anything he can do to make his employees feel appreciated, he believes, is a bigger return on his investment in them.

Kyle Cook, co-owner of Columbia business Hitt Records, also supports raising the state’s minimum wage.

Cook believes that in paying employees that bit extra, they feel more respected and it creates a better relationship with them.

“Why would I pay them so little when I feel like personally it’s not enough, it’s just the self-worth thing first of all, so a mutual sharing of respect like, ‘oh, I’m being paid better,’” Cook said.

One criticism of raising the minimum wage has been that small businesses may not be able to afford paying their workers the raise. Cook disagrees.

“I feel like when I found out businesses are paying more to their employees and covering health benefits and things like that and those things are figured into the costs, I’m the kind of person that’s more likely to shop at that business, and there’s a lot of people out there like that,” Cook said.

Through Proposition B, the minimum wage is expected to rise gradually over the next five years. Business owners like Elman and Cook see this to be a benefit “if it happens in a staggered way, people will have time to adjust,” Cook said.

Elman also believes that the five-year plan will help businesses. “With it being phased in over a number of years, it gives businesses like mine and many others around an opportunity to acclimate,” he said. ...

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Copyright 2018 Missourian


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