By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
SEATTLE — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan DelBene on Tuesday brought their fight to raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour to Seattle, where advocates want to raise it $5 higher.
The small-business owner who hosted their news conference thinks the national proposal would be easier to swallow.
Molly Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, said she already pays most of her employees more than Washington state’s minimum of $9.32 an hour and the people who make the ice cream earn at least $15 an hour. She would prefer to see increases phased in for small businesses but believes paying people more would bring her more businesses.
Neitzel said she believes people who work full time should be able to support their families and afford an occasional ice cream treat, but she worries that paying $15 an hour to all 50 to 60 winter employees or the 80 to 90 she has in the summer would take a lot of money from her bottom line.
“It’s important as a country that we all jump together on this” to avoid giving less generous companies a competitive advantage, she said. “Increasing wages for everyone is going to be great for small businesses.”
Murray and DelBene, both Democrats, said the national minimum wage proposal is part of a bigger effort to bring back the middle class.
DelBene called it a common sense proposal that will help grow the economy. Both said it would be a particular benefit to women, who account for most minimum wage workers.
“When women succeed, Americans succeed,” DelBene said.
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office says the national wage proposal could lift 900,000 people over the federal poverty threshold. But the report released Tuesday also says the proposal could take away half a million jobs by 2016.
Murray said she has read a variety of research on the topic with varying opinions on the economic impact of raising the minimum wage.
“When you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, you spend it,” she said. That could lead to more employment, not less.
Murray said she expects the national minimum wage increase will get a vote in the Senate during the first week of March. DelBene said a vote in the House would be more of a challenge.
Chuck Cruise, 57, a bellman at the Seattle Hilton, said even though he makes some tips in addition to his salary, he’s still struggling to pay his bills and can’t afford a new roof for his home.
Cruise said some people who live on tips and low wages are doing better than he is, but the truth is, “We’re all struggling.”