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State House Memo: Let’s give New Hampshire’s hardest workers a raise

Recently the House Labor Committee held a hearing on HB 1403, a bill that would increase the minimum wage in New Hampshire from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 next January and $9 in January of 2016, with modest increases indexed to inflation in the future.

If we pass this bill, it would mean a raise for one in every eight workers whose wages haven’t kept pace with cost of living for more than 30 years and allow them to join the economic mainstream.

Since 1979, one hour of work at New Hampshire’s minimum wage could purchase the equivalent of $9.47 in today’s dollars.

In other words, inflation has eaten away more than $2 per hour in purchasing power in the past 35 years and has affected 76,000 of our friends, family and neighbors.

When they hear about raising the minimum wage, many people think back to their first jobs, working in a convenience store or fast food place after school or on weekends. Everybody brings their own experiences to debates in the Legislature, but in this case, anecdotes from one’s own life can be deceiving.

Average minimum-wage workers are no longer teens beginning their working life. They’re adults – with adult responsibilities and adult expenses to pay for like utilities, housing, food for their families and transportation.

Some basic facts about Americans working at minimum wage jobs are in order.

∎ Seventy-two percent are not teens; they’re 20 years old or older.

∎ Fully 36 percent 30 or older.

∎ Fifty-nine percent are women.

∎ Fourteen percent are parents.

∎ Roughly 21,000 children in New Hampshire have a mother or father who would experience a pay raise from a higher minimum wage.

With a higher minimum wage, these workers will have more money to spend, which in turn gives virtually every New Hampshire business more customers – helping them to hire more workers and kick-starting a cycle of prosperity.

This cycle, driven by $64 million in additional wages paid out over the next two years to low-income households – households that by necessity spend every dollar they earn – would put our economy on a steady basis as we move out of the Great Recession.

When opponents claim that a minimum wage increase leads to fewer jobs, they’re missing the fact that most jobs are created by middle-class consumers buying what businesses large and small are selling. Growth comes from the middle out, not the top down. By putting more money in the pockets of hardworking families in New Hampshire, we are building a more durable economy going forward.

This isn’t a partisan issue. Recent polling finds that 76 percent of Granite Staters, including majorities of Republicans, independents and Democrats, support increasing the minimum wage to $9. People across the ideological spectrum realize that raising the minimum wage would help lift thousands of Granite State workers out of poverty, stimulate the economy and help families across the state leave behind dependence on food stamps, heating oil assistance and Medicaid.

The time has come to realize that our neighbors working for minimum wage deserve a raise. Our economy will be improved by bringing these workers back into the economic mainstream.

(State Rep. Jan Schmidt is a Democrat from Nashua. Rep. Rebecca Emerson-Brown is a Democrat from Portsmouth. Rep. Sally Kelly is a Democrat from Chichester.)

"Seventy-two percent are not teens; they’re 20 years old or older." The number of people earning the minimum wage is only about 1% of the work force. If less than 30% are teens... where are all those other teens working their higher paying jobs?

If minimum wage laws are an unqualified good for society, then why not make the minimum wage one million dollars an hour? I think the writers would agree, like most people with any common sense, that this would be bad for society. But when does it turn from bad to good? $1000 per hour? $100 per hour? Or, is it bad for society at any level? I would challenge the writers to explain why the wages they propose are good rather than bad, and, how they determine the line between good and bad.

The law of supply and demand is really very simple, and needs no statistics: Higher prices, less demand. Higher prices for labor of necessity leads to lower demand for labor, and therefore minimum wage laws must lead to more unemployment. It is frustrating that the writers appear ignorant of basic economics, yet try to make an argument based on economics.

Rep. Sally Kelly et al, need to go back to the drawing board and check their statistics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 3.6 million people at the minimum wage. That translates into 2.5% of all workers and 1.5% of the population. 31% are teens, 55% are 25 years old or younger. 1.1% of all workers over 25 earn minimum wage and .8% of all Americans over 25 earn the minimum wage. Those are actual statistics. In the minimum wage groups most of these workers are not “poor” and are not trying to support a family on only their meager earnings. In a recent study, 63% of low income workers earn $9.50 per hour, well over the minimum wage of $7.25 and are the second or third earner in their households with an average income of over $50,000 per year. In fact, in 1980 15% of the population was minimum wage earners, today it is 4.7%. 72% of these minimum wage employees are in the service industry and half work in the food industry. So, in food service Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that in 2011 labor productivity gains in the food service industry were 0%. In 2012 productivity dropped -.1% or was worse. In limited service food service operations, productivity fell by 2% while owners saw their labor costs rise by nearly 3%. In essence these minimum wage earners are being paid for doing less. Finally from 1987 to 2012 the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that worker productivity in food service increased an average of .5% per year. Over that same period, the minimum wage increased from $3.35 per hour to $7.25 per hour an average increase of 3.1%. Food service is just one example but the same applies to retail as well.

How about some anecdotal evidence. Maybe actually look into the faces of the people that serve you in McD's or Walmart. Tell me how many teenagers you see? I see older men and women, many look worn and tired. These are the working poor, our neighbors. Everyone can't be an "entrepreneur", some people have to physically work to feed their families. Tax payers are already subsidizing many Walmart workers by paying for their food stamps. Sometimes people have just do the right thing.

Their FALSE QUOTE: "raising the minimum wage would help lift thousands of Granite State workers out of poverty" Here is the TRUTH: “Over 20 years, 85 percent of the best studies show job loss after the minimum wage goes up. Among 28 states that increased their minimum wages from 2003 through 2007, it had no impact on poverty" according to the Southern Economic Journal. Never ever trust Democrats rhetoric the facts always tell a different story.

Look at the stats from BLS and that will give you an accurate account of who works for minimum wage.

One in every eight?? I dont believe thats right...I looked it up not long ago, it wasnt easy, and the numbers I got nationally were less than 1%. We have 10 times the national average of minimum wage jobs here in NH?? I dont believe it.

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