CNN: Here's what hourly workers and small business owners think of a $15 minimum wage

By Alaa Elassar
CNN, March 9, 2021

President Joe Biden, along with other Democrats, have voiced support for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. ... Here's what some hourly workers and small business owners have to say ...

Owner: Ji Hye Kim

Ji Hye Kim, 43, owns Miss Kim, a Korean restaurant, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Kim, the owner and chef, said she fully supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. She currently pays staff $12 an hour, but some earn even more with tips. The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.65 an hour.

"I've been a minimum wage worker before, I've been a tipped minimum wage worker, I've been $1 over the minimum wage, so when I opened the restaurant I decided we would pay people more than the minimum wage," Kim told CNN. "All I can say is it's always been a strength, not a weakness. There have been challenging moments but it has saved us money in the long run."

Kim said paying staff more than minimum wage has helped reduce employee turnover and keep them motivated during difficult times, like the coronavirus pandemic.

She said most owners don't realize that a proposed increase in the minimum wage would happen slowly over a number of years so that businesses can adjust.

"If you think about having a long term employee and they're staying with you year after year and you're not willing to go $1.50 an hour up every year, it's shortsighted and ridiculous," Kim said. "We are called the hospitality industry and we're being so inhospitable to our own. Taking care of the most struggling in the economy is the right thing to do and it's the smartest thing to do for the economy." ...

Owner: Gina Schaefer

Gina Schaefer, 50, owns A Few Cool Hardware Stores in the Washington, DC, area.

Schaefer pays all her employees a starting wage of $15 an hour. Minimum wage in Washington is already $15 an hour. But in Maryland and Virginia, where some of her 13 stores are located, it's significantly less.

She said the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour isn't high enough.

"The current federal minimum wage comes to just $15,000 for full-time work, which is not enough for even one person to make ends meet across the country, much less support a family or get ahead in life," Schaefer told CNN.

Paying her staff $15 an hour has had a positive impact on her business, Schaefer said.

"We consistently have a lower than average employee turnover rate, high employee satisfaction reports and positive annual sales growth at most of our locations, and we attribute this in part to paying higher wages than our competitors," she said.

An increase in the minimum wage could also help the US economy, Schaefer said.

"If the federal minimum wage was enough to keep workers out of poverty we would have a stronger economy and would be better able to get back to growing our broad middle class," she said.

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