Minimum wage debate heats up
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Minimum wage debate heats up

Date: August 23, 2006
By: Rachel Higginbotham
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A state business coalition  released a report Tuesday stating that the November ballot proposal to raise the minimum wage may not actually help minimum wage workers.

The report by SOS Jobs cites research by Dr. David McPherson of Florida State University, and claims that families already in poverty will be hurt if Proposition B passes.

"It all depends on how you measure growth," said Jim Kistler, Executive Vice President of Associated Industries, a lobbying group that works with S.O.S. Jobs.

"People will lose jobs over this. Does the benefit of the people who are getting raises justify people losing jobs?"

The study predicts that, if the minimum wage is raised from $5.15 to $6.50 per hour as proposed, 1,552 Missouri jobs could be lost. The study also states that 30 per cent of the jobs lost will accrue to families with incomes of less than $25,000.

"[Wage-hike supporters] are portraying this as helping the low-wage workers, but in my mind, this isn't about them," Kistler said. "They're hoping for a ripple effect from this to help the economy, but it won't help the low-wage workers."

In reaction to the S.O.S. Jobs report,  the organization promoting the Missouri ballot proposal argued that other states had an opposite experience.

"After we raised the minimum wage, even at the height of recession, minimum wage sectors didn't experience any significant job loss," said Dan Gardner, Commissioner for the Bureau of Labor and Industries in Oregon.  Gardner spoke to reporters in a conference call organized by the Missouri group, Give Missourians a Raise.

Gardner said that, from experience, a raise in minimum wage "is a good thing for employers and employees."

"The doom and gloom that [opponents] predicted hasn't happened," he said.

"I don't think [raising the minimum wage] is an outrage in concept," said Sara Howard, Communications Director for Give Missourians a Raise.

"Twenty-two states have done it."

Currently 18 states and Washington D.C. have minimum wages higher than the federal rate of $5.15 per hour. Four more states--Arkansas, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania--have passed bills raising the rates, but the laws have not yet gone into effect.