Atlanta Journal Constitution Op-Ed: Lya Sorano, Businesses back wage raise; state should, too

By Lya Sorano
Atlanta Journal Constitution, 07/24/07

In Georgia, one of the reddest of the "red states," one might expect an almost universal denouncement of the raise in the minimum wage. In fact, the opposite is true.

Business owners and managers I've spoken with aren't concerned. They're glad the minimum wage is going up because workers deserve it and they believe it will help our local economy.

The $5.15 minimum wage has been in effect for a decade, the longest period without a raise since the minimum was established in 1938. Georgians covered by the federal minimum wage will see their hourly pay rise to $5.85 today, $6.55 on July 24, 2008, and $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Those increases are lower than they seem because they lagged so far behind inflation.

Tony McBride, general manager of Cracker Barrel on Highway 53 in Braselton, said his employees who are not servers start at $8.00 an hour. BB Webb, owner of Carl House in Auburn, believes a minimum wage increase is one of the changing economic conditions business owners need to build into their business plans. Absorbing a minimum wage increase, she said, is "just a part of being a good citizen." And a good businessperson.

Webb says the raise will have a positive effect on the local economy, which would be especially beneficial for businesses serving lower-income markets "because their customers would have more money to spend."

States that have already raised their minimum wages above the $5.15 federal level have had better employment and small business trends than the other states, according to reports by the Fiscal Policy Institute and other research organizations.

"Higher wages benefit business by increasing consumer purchasing power, reducing costly employee turnover, raising productivity and improving product quality, customer satisfaction and company reputation," a statement by Business for a Fair Minimum Wage explains.

"A fair minimum wage is a sound investment in the future of our communities and our nation," concludes the statement, which I endorsed along with hundreds of business people nationwide, including the owners of Georgia businesses such as Morning Glory Farm in Clermont, North Georgia Woodworks in Toccoa, and Sugar Magnolia B&B, Flyer Candy Bars, Simply Web and Grand Central Pizza in Atlanta.

Georgia's poverty rate is higher than most other states.

A minimum wage that keeps workers in poverty hurts our communities and our state.

The Legislature should raise the state minimum wage above its meager $5.15 level so that all workers, whether covered by state or federal law, get a long overdue raise.

Lya Sorano is the founder of Atlanta Women in Business and chief executive of the Oliver/Sorano Group, a marketing and public relations firm.

Copyright 2007 Lya Sorano

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