KAKE-TV 10, ABC, Wichita: Raise in Minimum Wage Applauded by Business Leaders

KAKE-TV 10, ABC, Wichita, 7/20/07

Kansas – On July 24, for the first time in ten years, the federal minimum wage will go up – marking the end of the longest period without a raise since the minimum wage was enacted in 1938.

Kansas workers covered under the federal law will get a raise from $5.15 to $5.85 next week. Contrary to conventional wisdom, many businesses are cheering the raise.

Helen Norman, co-owner of Garnett Dairy Queen in Garnett, said, "As a business owner, I believe we need to pay higher wages so that people can support their families. We have the lowest state minimum wage in the country, $2.65 an hour. With the cost of living constantly going up, even making ends meet at the new $5.85 federal minimum will be a struggle. How do we expect people to survive?”

The chief executives of Costco, Addus HealthCare, Eileen Fisher apparel company, Small Business Majority, the US Women's Chamber of Commerce, and small business owners from every state, including Kansas, are among those saying a raise for those at the bottom won't hurt the bottom line. As Costco’s CEO Jim Sinegal, has put it: “Raising the minimum wage is good for business.”

States with minimum wages above the federal level have had stronger small business and retail job growth than the other states.

The minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $5.85 next week, $6.55 on July 24, 2008 and $7.25 on July 24, 2009. However, the minimum wage has been so eroded over time that even with the new raises; workers will have less buying power than minimum wage workers had half a century ago. Even after rising to $7.25 in 2009, the minimum wage will still be lower than it was in 1956, when it was $7.65 in today's dollars. It will be much lower than it was in 1968, when the minimum wage peaked in value at $9.56 in today's dollars.

In a statement with nearly 800 signers and climbing, business leaders from Kansas and all around the country assert:

“Higher wages benefit business by increasing consumer purchasing power, reducing costly employee turnover, raising productivity, and improving product quality, customer satisfaction and company reputation. We cannot build a strong 21st century economy when more and more hardworking Americans struggle to make ends meet. A fair minimum wage shows we value both work and responsible businesses. A fair minimum wage is a sound investment in the future of our communities and our nation.”

Gary Theilen, owner of Theilen Farm and Cattle in Enid, Okla. said, "As a small business owner who has always paid well above the minimum wage, it has been my experience that paying living wages simply makes good business sense. It is good for business, workers and the community."


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