Minimum Wage Debate Continues: What Would Upping It To $15 Mean - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Minimum Wage Debate Continues: What Would Upping It To $15 Mean For Local Businesses?

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Augusta, GA -

Fast food workers across the country conducted strikes and walkouts in nearly 60 cities last Thursday. They're pushing for unionization and an hourly pay of $15 from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25.

If this push to raise the minimum wage is successful, it wouldn't only raise it for the picketing fast food workers - it would obviously  raise it for everyone:  It's easy to see how it would impact local businesses that employ minimum wage workers, but some say it would negatively impact employers who pay much more than minimum wage.

"No, nobody starts at minimum wage here," says Wayne Stoltz who works for Weinberger's Furniture.

Weinberger's is a fourth-generation family-owned business with starting wages well above minimum wage.  Still its owner is concerned about a national push to more than double the minimum wage - here's why:

"Everybody would want to double their salary and that can't happen, in my business it can't happen," Mark Weinberger says.

"Anybody that would have any common sense would say, 'if they got a raise, I get a raise too,'" Stoltz adds.

Economists say that "common sense" makes economic sense.

"If that equilibrium is bumped up a bit by higher minimum wages, then they have to bump their efficiency wages," Dr. Simon Medcalfe says, "it doesn't only affect businesses with minimum wage employees."

Workers who are valued at more than minimum wage now wouldn't be okay making the same as minimum wage workers, if the minimum wage went up:

"No, they're not and I wouldn't blame them," Weinberger says.

"You will expect to get more than minimum wage employee," Stoltz says.  "My skills aren't worth less and they're going to expect the same thing, 'why am I not getting my fair share.'"

His boss says that's a fair point.

"If you're making two dollars above minimum wage and minimum wage goes up two dollars, you're going to want a two dollar raise, and I think that's fair," Weinberger says.

He may say it's a fair point, but that doesn't mean it's a price he can afford to pay.

"You're going to see businesses closing, you can't afford that, there's no way you can afford that," he says of increasing or doubling all wages.

And because of that economists say workers may not be able to afford this either:

"If firms do lay off workers, that worker isn't better off because they don't have a job," Medcalfe says.

Medcalfe says a sudden, sharp wage hike can also cause severe unintended consequences on education.

"As you increase minimum wage, more teens dropping out of school early," he says.  "They drop out when they see they can earn 15 an hour and the opportunity cost changes.  Is that a policy we really want to pursue? Probably not."

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