Minimum wage debate heats up in Delaware

 Fast food workers participate in a strike last year (photo courtesy of 32BJ SIEU)

Fast food workers participate in a strike last year (photo courtesy of 32BJ SIEU)

A bill to increase minimum wage will be debated before a Delaware legislative committee next week.  Both sides are voicing their opinions.

Supports of a minimum wage increase have been organizing various rallies in the state over the past several months.

Fast food restaurant workers in Delaware and across the country have participated in walkouts, demanding a “livable” wage.

During the House Small Business Caucus meeting Thursday, state representatives debated their concerns with the Senate Bill 6, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. 

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Opponents of the bill worry it will force small businesses, particularly the restaurant industry, to cut staff or raise prices to keep up with the new pay system.

“What it does is creates my cook coming up going ‘if everyone is making a dollar more than I want to make a dollar more,’” said Jeff Cook, co-owner of 2 Fat Guy’s restaurant. “And I’m going to hear it for months and I can’t afford to do that.”

Chris Benjamin owns Sweet Serenity Chocolates with his wife Rachael in Seaford and said a minimum wage increase could be detrimental to their company, which has less than a dozen employees.

“We are a very small business and coming up with a dollar an hour raise, the minimum wage increase, it’s expediential because of all the other costs involved.”

With the minimum wage increase, Benjamin said they’d have to cut 20 hours a week from employees or fold.

Representatives tossed around the idea of adding amendments to the bill including a tax credit for those who earn minimum wage and are head of house so they can take home more money from their paycheck.

Many of those who oppose the bill supported the ideas of adding a “training wage” amendment which would allow employers to pay a cheaper wage during the employee’s first few weeks on the job.  

Rep. Bryon Short (D-District 7), supports the bill and said the ideas are “complementary” to the minimum wage increase but shouldn’t be added to the current bill.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to stop action on Senate Bill 6 until these other issues can be resolved,” said Rep. Short. “What I would like to say is that we passed Senate Bill 6 and we follow up on some of the suggestions.”

The House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce committee will take up the bill on Wednesday.

First will look at the issue Friday at 5:30 and Saturday at 5 on WHYY-TV.

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