Local Business Calls For Action As 7th Anniversary Of $7.25 Fed. Min. Wage Approaches

Angela O'Byrne is the President of New Orleans-based Perez, APC

         Angela O'Byrne is the President of New Orleans-based Perez, APC, a 100% woman and minority owned multidisciplinary firm providing a full range of in-house services including architecture, design-build, construction, landscape architecture, planning, interior design and real estate development. She is also the 2016 Louisiana Small Business Person of the Year and 1st runner up for 2016 National Small Business Person of the Year.

         O'Byrne believes the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour mires full-time workers in poverty and undermines consumer demand and economic growth.

         Advocating for raising the minimum wage, O'Byrne said “Workers are also consumers, and if they can’t play that role because they aren’t being paid living wages, then our entire economy suffers. Gradually increasing the minimum wage will create an economic ripple effect benefitting businesses large and small.”

         O'Byrne’s perspective is shared by Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, a national network of business owners, executives and business organizations that believe a fair minimum wage makes good business sense.

         This Sunday, July 24, 2016, will mark seven years since the federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009. Business for a Fair Minimum Wage reports at $7.25 the federal minimum is worth less than it did in 1950, adjusted for the cost of living.

         Reps with the organization said business owners and leaders across the country this week are voicing their frustration at Congressional inaction and speaking out in support of raising the minimum wage to strengthen businesses and boost the consumer buying power at the heart of the economy.

         “The erosion in the national wage floor is undermining the consumer demand that businesses depend on and weakening our economy,” Holly Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said. “There’s no excuse for a minimum wage with less buying power now than it had decades ago. Congress should follow the example set by a growing number of cities and states and raise the federal minimum wage so all Americans can benefit from a decent wage floor wherever they live or do business.”

         There are 21 states where the $7.25 federal minimum wage rate applies. A total of 42 states have a minimum wage less than or equal to $9.00. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator, no state has yet reached a minimum wage of at least $11.08, which was the value of the minimum wage in 1968.

         Reps with Business for a Fair Minimum Wage said since the federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009, it has lost about 11 percent of its buying power, and at $7.25, the minimum wage has one-third less buying power than it did at its high point in 1968.

         Business leaders like New Orleans’ O'Byrne have been asked to agree to a Business for a Fair Minimum Wage Federal Sign On Statement accessed via the organization’s website.

         Part of the statement reads “As business owners and executives, we support gradually raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12 by 2020. It’s good for business, customers and our economy. Today’s outdated minimum wage has far less buying power than it had in the 1960s. Stuck since 2009 at $7.25 an hour – just $15,080 a year – the minimum wage impoverishes working families and weakens the consumer spending at the heart of our economy.”

         Companies that agreed to and signed the statement include Ben & Jerry's, Eileen Fisher, Wetzel's Pretzels, Stonyfield, Parnassus Investments, New Belgium Brewing, Amy's, Dr. Bronner's, Replacements Ltd. and hundreds more.

         Reps with Business for a Fair Minimum Wage said the group believes raising the minimum wage will keep more dollars circulating in the local economy and reduce the growing strain on “the social safety net caused by inadequate wages.”

         Other supporters across the country want Congress to increase the federal wage floor, saying a higher minimum will boost consumer demand, lower employer turnover, increase productivity and strengthen the economy.

         Bill Phelps, Co-Founder and CEO of Wetzel's Pretzels, said “We haven't had an increase in the federal minimum wage in seven years. That's crazy! We’ve experienced strong sales growth after minimum wage increases. Raising the minimum wage is good for our bottom line. We look forward to continued growth for our business and the economy with future state and federal raises.”

         Roger Smith, President and CEO of Waco, TX-based American Income Life, said “The minimum wage buys fewer necessities now than it did when I needed it to survive in the 1960s. And as a successful capitalist, it pains me to see that the American Dream, which so inspired me, is increasingly out of reach. Raising the minimum wage makes good economic sense – boosting sales at Main Street businesses and improving internal functions like employee retention, morale and quality of service provided to customers. But it's much more than that. Raising the minimum wage is a crucial first step to restoring the shattered American Dream.”

         Ken Weinstein, Owner of the Trolley Car Diner and Trolley Car Café in Philadelphia, PA, said “Raising the minimum wage is a win-win because no businesses will have an unfair competitive advantage and workers will have more money to spend at restaurants and other businesses. Business owners like me will see increased revenues, as we have after previous minimum wage hikes. Reduced hiring and training costs, due to less employee turnover, will help maximize profits. The benefits of raising the minimum wage outweigh the costs. Small businesses will be able to keep both employees and customers, and compete and grow on a more level playing field.”

         Kristin Kohn, Owner of Silver in the City in Indianapolis, IN, said “Retail employees work hard, including nights, weekends and holidays. They shouldn’t need another job to make ends meet. My employees take pride in their work and ownership in our reputation. They provide me with the freedom to plan ahead for the future success of my business. Reinvesting in our human resources has made a huge difference in the quality of employees and quality of life for me and my family.”

         Mike Draper, Owner of Raygun LLC in Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, IA, said “While we pay more than minimum wage, the low federal minimum actually keeps our wages lower than I’d like. When our competitors can legally pay employees $7.25 an hour, which is not a living wage, it can hold down wages at other companies. My taxes shouldn’t be diverted into corporate welfare going to subsidize the low wages of my competitors. Raising the minimum wage is important for fair competition and a thriving economy.”

         Doug Havron, Owner of Gabby’s Burgers and Fries in Nashville, TN, said “Raising the minimum wage is good business. Paying people good money leads to better service and self-motivated behaviors. It is smart in the short and long run.”

         Lloyd Smith, President and CEO of Wilmington, NC-based Cortech Solutions, Inc., said “We find that strong wages and benefits are fundamental tools for attracting and retaining the best employees. Employees earning a living wage give far more of themselves to the job on a daily basis and over their lifetime compared to employees who are preoccupied with moonlighting and/or the costs of healthcare, education, housing and other expenses.”

         Bill Whyte, Owner and CEO of the W.S. Badger Company in Gilsum, NH, said “Badger pays a living wage that is far above minimum wage, and we are always striving to do better. Paying a living wage has been great for our company culture and very positive for our bottom line. We find it easy to find and hire quality workers, retention is very strong, and we can count on our staff to be productive, reliable and strongly motivated. Paying well and being committed to family friendly practices helps build successful businesses and strong healthy communities.”

         Freddy Peralta, Owner of KyTrade Computers in Lexington, KY, said “An increased minimum wage is very important for our communities. Every worker deserves a decent wage for their hard work. Small businesses will benefit with more consumer demand for their products and services and more dedicated employees to provide them.”

         Theresa Marquez, Chief Mission Officer of Organic Valley, which is headquartered in LaFarge, WI, said “As a farmer cooperative, Organic Valley is rooted in the concept that people are our most important resource. Paying fair wages has not hurt our business, but has helped us to succeed and grow. Our starting minimum wage in 2016 is $13 an hour and employees who have been with us a year are guaranteed a minimum wage of $14. We strongly believe a raise in the federal minimum wage is sorely overdue.”

         Gary Watrous, President of Watrous Associates Architects in Louisville, KY, said “Raising the minimum wage will help us build our economy. It is vital for revitalizing neighborhoods where workers are struggling to afford housing and other basics, and businesses need customers with more money to spend.”

         Scott Nash, owner and CEO of MOM’s Organic Market, with numerous locations including Alexandria, Arlington, Herndon, Merrifield, Woodbridge, VA, and Bryn Mawr, PA, as well as Washington DC and Maryland, said “All good businessmen know that their most important asset is their employees. At MOM’s, we consider paying a higher wage not a burden, but rather a high-return strategic investment. Our workforce is more productive, engaged and dedicated. They are happier, have less stress in their overall lives, and feel appreciated and secure. Customers love shopping at places with engaged employees. Raising the minimum wage is smart business strategy.”

         View the Economic Policy Institute Minimum Wage Tracker here



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