NH Minimum Wage: HB 127 and HB 241
The two bills were lumped together in a January 29, 2013 hearing in the Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee.
Both bills call for an increase in the minimum wage. Last legislative session, the NH specific minimum wage was eliminated. NH complies with the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been increased exactly 3 times in the last 30 years.
HB241 would increase the state minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. HB127 would increase it to $8.00 an hour.
There are some 14,000 minimum wage workers in NH. 78.8% of them are over the age of 20. Contrary to what many believe, fewer than a quarter of them are teenagers. More than a third of them are married, and over a quarter are parents. These are people who are earning $15,080 annually, if they work a steady 40-hour week.
The number of states (and NH counties) where a min. wage worker can afford a 2-bedroom apartment? ZERO.
The chances that a minimum wage worker is a woman? 64 in 100.
If minimum wage kept up with increases in CEO pay, it would be over $23 an hour.
It was obvious that some of the committee members as well as those offering testimony today believe that minimum wage is the sole province of teenagers, but the facts from the Economic Policy Institute prove otherwise.
Rep. Shawn Jasper testified (in opposition) on behalf of House GOP leadership. He said that what NH needs is a training wage, and repeated several times that not everyone who is earning minimum wage is living on minimum wage. It is Rep. Jasper’s assertion that no one is worth $8 an hour when they’re 8 years old or even 13. The minimum wage does not help our youth, it does not allow them to push a broom or move up the rungs of the employment ladder. In fact, Jasper asserts, teens are unemployed BECAUSE of the minimum wage. Thanks to the min. wage, those jobs aren’t being created. He reiterated that there are a substantial number of people who do not need to live on the minimum wage.
Quick diversion: an informal poll of my friends with kids shows that teenaged babysitters are earning somewhere between $7 and $10 an hour.
Also, the reason for teen unemployment is simple. There are still millions of adults out of work. The teens are competing with them for jobs. It has nothing to do with minimum wage, and everything to do with what we’re still not calling a depression.
Businessman Steve Grenier of Rye has a seasonal ice cream business. He lives year round on those earnings. He states that he would be adversely affected, and would have to raise his prices. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids who worked their way to higher wages, if new kids came in at this new entry-level minimum wage. His employees are all students.
Representative Daniels from the committee wondered how many of the minimum wage workers are under 18 and still living at home. He also wondered how many are working min. wage jobs as a second job, “just for something to do.” Apparently those who work second jobs don’t merit higher pay.
Chris Williams of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce opposes both bills. He told us of several small businesses that have closed in Nashua recently (which had nothing to do with this, btw) as a warning example of what will happen. Of course, if people earn more, they spend more at those small businesses – but that isn’t factored in to the thinking of business/industry groups and their lobbyists.
Another thing to consider: if wages don’t go up, than the cost of safety net services do.
Dan Juday (not at all sure of the spelling) of the BIA testified in opposition. This will have a ripple effect on all employers, increasing labor costs across the board. This is why we have outsourcing – because of labor costs. Also, he told us that an increase in minimum wage could bankrupt the unemployment insurance trust fund. This is no time to burden employers with more costs.
Beth Mattingly of the Carsey Institute pointed out that the federal poverty guidelines were developed in the 1960’s, based on the cost of food. They do not factor in the cost of housing or childcare, which are the biggest expenses for today’s working people. A single person would need to earn $9 an hour just to reach the federal poverty guidelines. Naturally, there were other folks there to speak in support of increasing the minimum wage. For me, today, the focus is on those who defend sub-poverty wages.
There are some wage subdivisions in place already. Restaurants are allowed to pay tipped workers substantially less than minimum wage. These are also people who don’t get paid sick days, so they come to work sick, because they have to, and then handle your food. Achoo!
There is a mechanism in place to pay people with developmental disabilities less than minimum wage. The business lobby would love to create a “training wage” in order to pay kids (and probably adults too) slave wages.
Curtis Barry of the Retail Merchants Association described the minimum wage working base as students and “retired people, looking for a little extra money.” Apparently those older people don’t deserve a decent wage, either. Fortunately no one mentioned housewives working for “pin money.”
There was almost no respect expressed for workers at this hearing. That was disheartening.
I did hear from a bill sponsor that there is a lot of support for an increase in the minimum wage. On behalf of 14,000 NH workers, let’s hope that there will be one.