Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Minimum Wage Raise Is No Worry For Business
By Lya Sorano

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 saw their hourly pay rise to $5.85, on July 24, 2007. It will increase to $6.55 on July 24, 2008 and $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

Those increases are lower than they seem. The minimum wage has lagged so far behind inflation that even at $7.25 the minimum wage will still be lower than it was in 1956 when it was $7.65 in today's dollars.

Tony McBride, general manager of Cracker Barrel on Highway 53 in Braselton, said his employees who are not servers are paid "well above the minimum wage." He added, "We start them at $8.00 an hour."

Theresa Meadows, general manager of Jeffrey's Sports Grille in Braselton, says their employees are paid minimum wage during training, "but that is only 20 hours" before they get a raise.

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.

According to Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, "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 fair minimum wage is a sound investment in the future of our communities and our nation," concludes the statement, which I endorsed at Business For a Fair Minimum Wage along with hundreds of businesspeople nationwide, including the owners of many Georgia businesses including 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.

Our elected officials 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.

This article has also run in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

No comments: