New task force studies low-wage impact on Delawareans

 Fast food workers striking outside of Wendy's on Concord Pike in December. (Shirley Min/WHYY)

Fast food workers striking outside of Wendy's on Concord Pike in December. (Shirley Min/WHYY)

A 14-member Delaware panel tasked with developing new policy ideas on wage and labor issues held its first meeting Wednesday.

The Low-Wage and Service Worker Task Force, made up of state law makers, local community leaders and business and union organizations, heard testimony from roughly a dozen experts who provided research on how low-wage directly impacts Delawareans.

The topic of raising Delaware’s minimum wage and creating a livable wage has picked up interest over the past few years as restaurant and retail industries remain some of the largest employers in the nation.

Earlier this year, Delaware passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour by June 1, 2015. Many advocates have argued that workers should be getting around $15 an hour in order to maintain a “livable wage,” which is income that would allow the employee to afford basic needs such as rent, food, utilities, insurance and transportation without assistance.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Experts say a livable wage would increase the demand for goods and services, creating more jobs and stimulating the local economy. They also say it would reduce the need for public assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid, saving taxpayer dollars.

Opponents of increasing minimum wage have argued that small businesses wouldn’t be able to afford it.

“I think what we’ve learned is that we need, at the state level, to take a serious look at the wage policy, at labor law enforcement and provide some direction forward for recognizing that much of what we do in Delaware is impacted by the federal government and the actions of congress and Washington,” said Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West., chair of the Low-Wage and Service Worker Task Force.

Sen. Marshall said they will take the information presented at the meeting and create recommendations to Gov. Jack Markell and the General Assembly.

Marshall also said he hopes Delaware can be a starting point for a national debate on the need to reform low-wage jobs.

“We’ll have a debate hopefully in January on a higher minimum wage in Delaware and then looking forward for a national debate on the issue of corporate America and its patriotism and its commitment to the American worker,” said Marshall.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal