My Turn: Raising the wage affects my bottom line, too

For the Monitor
Published: 1/20/2020 6:30:26 AM

We hear a lot about how raising the minimum wage will impact small businesses and our Main Street economies, but we almost never listen to the business owners themselves. I’m a small-business owner in New Hampshire. I’ve spent the past nine years running multiple businesses, hiring, mentoring and managing more than 30 people. It’s way past time we raised the minimum wage.

Like anyone who has run a business, I know that our people are essential to our success. For many of us, it is a foregone conclusion that we pay our workers a fair and livable wage – not just for our own team but for our economy as a whole. Despite this, some corporations go no further than the state’s mandate and follow the federal minimum wage, so many workers in New Hampshire do not have access to a fair wage. The continued work of our legislators in the State House who are back fighting to raise the minimum wage is crucial to local economies throughout our state.

Technically, New Hampshire doesn’t have a minimum wage at all. That means we go by the federal minimum wage, just $7.25 per hour.

That’s not good enough, especially when you consider that it’s an average of $3 less than workers are earning in neighboring state. As one of the demographically oldest (and aging) states in the country, we need to bring more people in who want to stay, work and be a part of our economy. Establishing a minimum wage in New Hampshire that is competitive to the other wages in New England is a significant, concrete way to help us retain workers.

The current minimum wage of $7.25 is incompatible with the cost of living for low- and middle-wage workers. Right now, the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant for 10 years despite the rising cost of living. This means lower-wage workers have to work longer hours to achieve the same standard of living that was considered bare minimum almost half a century ago. A higher minimum wage would reverse the growing wage inequality between low- and middle-wage workers over the past generation. It’s not sustainable for our economy or our communities if we have Granite Staters working two or three jobs just to keep their heads above water.

Finally, raising the minimum wage will create stronger, more vibrant Main Street economies. Putting more into our workers’ paychecks gives workers and families the purchasing power to invest back into their local economy, and more time to enjoy what it really means to be a Granite Stater. From buying goods and services here in New Hampshire to attending a teen drag show at Teatotaller, those dollars will boost small businesses like mine and help our economy grow. The way I see it, raising the wage is a counter-balance to corporate power and tips the scale ever so slightly to keep more money locally. That helps the people of this state, and it helps my bottom line.

I’m encouraged to see our legislators fighting for New Hampshire’s workers. While raising the minimum wage undoubtedly brings more economic opportunities for our state, it’s also the right thing to do for Granite Staters. It’s past time we make sure that the people of New Hampshire earn a livable wage.

(Emmett Soldati lives in Somersworth.)


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