Advocates weigh in on pros and cons of proposed $15 minimum wage hike

Updated: Jan. 18, 2021 at 11:13 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Could your minimum wage get bumped up to $15 dollars an hour?

That’s a part of the Coronavirus recovery plan proposed by President-elect Joe Biden.

The federal minimum wage, which currently sits at $7.25 an hour, hasn’t budged since 2009. Louisiana mirrors the federal minimum wage.

While advocates for the change believe it would help out a number of working folks throughout Louisiana, others against the pay hike believe it would hurt small business owners.

Stimulus checks of $1,400 per person is also included in Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan to help workers affected by COVID-19. And that includes raising the federal minimum wage.

“If you arbitrarily raise the cost of labor, then there will be an impact across the board some kind of way,” said Dawn Starnes McVea, with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

“We’re not talking about what people necessarily need to make, we’re just talking about the basic level. To ensure that people can survive and live off of,” said Davante Lewis, with the Louisiana Budget Project.

Advocates like Lewis with the Louisiana Budget Project say this pay hike could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of hard-working people across Louisiana. It would also confirm that employees should be regarded as essential.

“We are talking about hard-working women and men of our state. Parents, grandparents, people who are the backbone of the state of Louisiana who would get a raise, as well as young people. I don’t think anybody deserves to be paid less than they are worth, and that is to live above the poverty line,” said Lewis.

But others like Dawn Starns McVea with the Louisiana National Federation of Independent Busines, say this decision should be made on a market-to-market basis.

“It’s going to affect jobs, because at the end of the day, business owners have two choices. One, increase their product, the costs of goods and services, or decrease their labor costs, to make the budget work, to make that bottom line work,” said McVea.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office hiking the national minimum to $15 an hour by 2025 could pull 1.3 million people above wages that put them below the poverty line. But it also estimates the move would cost 1.3 million American jobs.

“They (small businesses) have to make that bottom line work. And so, if they don’t have enough income to cover that, they’re going to have to make decisions like increase the costs of their goods and services to cover it, or they’re going to have to cut labor costs,” said McVea.

“So, if we really want to rebuild our economy and make Louisiana a prosperous state, the first thing we should do is invest in the people that live in our state. And that is by giving them a raise and allowing them the opportunity to thrive in our economy,” said Lewis.

Congress must decide that with the pandemic already costing jobs, is the timing right to raise the minimum wage?

“We have tried to raise the minimum wage when there wasn’t a global pandemic. And this global pandemic highlights the problems of poverty, that has persisted in our country for way too long,” said Lewis.

“Maybe a little increase in the costs of goods and services may not be such a bad thing, but we’re not in a good economy, given the situation right now,” said McVea.

Right now, 29 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

This huge proposal still has to be approved by Congress, after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

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