Raise the Wage Coalition Demonstrates Strong Support for HB 1403, Increasing the Minimum Wage in New Hampshire
CONCORD, NH – New Hampshire elected officials, advocates, small business leaders, and community members hosted a press conference in the LOB Lobby this morning, Tuesday, February 11th to introduce HB 1403, raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire.
HB 1403 would raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage in two stages and provide for annual cost of living increases in the future. It would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2015 and to $9.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. Beginning January 1, 2017, it would automatically increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage to account for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index.
Three-quarters of Granite Staters – including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats – support increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour, according to the Granite State Poll released last week. HB 1403 would raise the wages of 76,000 New Hampshire workers in the first two years, stimulating the economy and increasing consumer demand. Elected officials, advocates, small business leaders, and community members spoke at the press conference immediately prior to testifying at the public hearing on HB 1403, where supporters of the bill outnumbered opponents 5 to 1.
Excerpts of statements are as follows:
Remarks by Prime House Sponsor, Rep. Sally Kelly
Seven years ago, as a freshman legislator, I began my service on the Labor Committee and I was proud to stand side-by-side with my Democratic and Republican colleagues as Governor Lynch signed minimum wage legislation into law.
It was the right time then and it is the right time now for both parties and both chambers to come together so New Hampshire citizens no longer have to say that every other New England state pays a higher minimum wage to its workers than we do. As a state, we are so much better than that. As a retail executive, I am continually aware of the life of small business owners. Today, our economy is on the rise and the timing for this moderate increase is just right.
Last week’s Granite State poll confirms that this legislation does just that; more than two-third of Granite Staters –76% – support increasing the New Hampshire minimum wage to $9 per hour. That includes 64% of Republicans, 70% of independents, and 91% of Democrats.
Remarks by Prime Senate Sponsor, Senator Sylvia B. Larsen
I am proud to be a co-sponsor of House Bill 1403, which would give New Hampshire working families a much needed raise. For the first time since World War II, wages have been declining in this country. Moms and Dads are working harder, but falling further behind. These are families who work hard and play by the rules. They should be able to afford to live with dignity and raise a family. All members of the Legislature talk about helping working families and growing the economy and this bill does just that.
Accelerating New Hampshire’s economic growth is only possible when individuals and working families are confident in their own financial situations. When that happens, their increased spending helps to grow our businesses and our economy. That’s why it’s vital that we restore and increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage. By restoring and increasing the state’s minimum wage, we will help our economy by putting more money in the pockets of hard-working people of all ages. Increasing the minimum wage will go a long way to restoring hope in the American Dream, the faith that by working hard and playing by the rules, you will be able to responsibly support your family.
Remarks by Diana Lacey, President of State Employee’s Association, SEIU 1984
Every day, hundreds of state and municipal workers across New Hampshire talk with low-wage workers about the burden that working hard but living with poverty level wages brings upon their families. What they see rings true with the things that the late Nelson Mandela saw, and spoke of in a February 2005 speech on poverty in London’s Trafalgar Square. Mr. Mandela referenced the effects of poverty as being imprisoned, enslaved and chained in the prison of poverty. His powerful words included this brief excerpt:
“They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
We are one of the wealthiest states in this country and we simply must do our part to lift working people up out of poverty. Passage of this minimum wage bill is an important start. This is the right bill, at the right time. In lifting up our workers, we will lift up all of New Hampshire. Doing so is an act of justice, and a path to freedom.
Remarks by The Rev. William E. Exner
A number of faith leaders gathered for prayer this morning, right across the street from the State House at St. Paul’s. We prayed for a livable minimum wage to be voted into law in the state of New Hampshire, and we prayed for our neighbors who work hard every day, yet whose present earnings keep them locked in poverty and constant need.
We prayed for people like the 43 year old woman with two children who works at a fast food restaurant in our state. The woman’s husband is working, but not full time as his work is seasonal. To help make ends meet, she works her first job from 8 am to 5 pm, then works her second job from 6 pm to 2 am. She and her husband work so hard but still struggle to afford the basics for their family, and to cover the cost of much needed car repairs.
As faith leaders, we are here to urge a change for the better. It’s a moral imperative. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah in the Bible sets the standard when it states, “Look, you are serving your own needs while you oppress all your workers.” The Bible goes on to insist that we become ‘repairers of this unjust breach’, that we become ‘restorers of streets to live in.’ Life without a livable minimum wage lands one on quite another road. As people of faith we are concerned for our neighbors who are paid at levels that relegate them and their children to poverty. In this state work ought not have poverty as its reward.
Remarks by Laura Miller, former Owner of Imagination Village
Miller was the owner of a retail business for 12 years that employed 5 people. She is now a member of the management team of a larger independent retail business that employs 18.
We have always made it a priority to pay a living wage – recognizing that in order to retain employees that help you reach your business goals, you need to pay them decently and give them opportunities to balance work, family, school and community lives. It only makes sense that if your staff is getting what they need, they will be able to focus on doing their best job for you. I am here today to support House Bill 1403, especially the cost of living increment. It is long overdue that we increase the base wage in this country. It is unconscionable that you can work full time and still live below the poverty level.
Increasing the minimum wage reduces the need for government funding of assistance programs such as the earned income tax credit and food stamps, by shifting profits back down to the local level. It keeps money in the local economy as workers need these dollars for housing, food, gas and other consumables. And I know, as other small business leaders know, that increasing the minimum wage helps businesses retain employees. In turn, quality employees can develop within a business, increasing productivity and therefore providing increased value to the enterprise, whether large or small. Raising the minimum wage helps all – it helps workers, the community, and small businesses.
Remarks by President Mark S. MacKenzie, New Hampshire AFL-CIO
MacKenzie was unable to attend due to a funeral. His written remarks are below and were read by NH AFL-CIO campaign coordinator Judy Stadtman.
For New Hampshire’s minimum wage workers, and for all of us, this is about justice and dignity, and the promise of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Thousands of our friends and neighbors struggle to support families while earning the minimum wage. These workers are frequently forced to forgo basics—food, housing, clothing—and far too many rely on public assistance to survive in this economy.
It’s a myth that minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers. Today, less than a quarter of minimum wage workers are teenagers. Most are breadwinners in their families and work full time. The median age of a low wage worker is 34 years old. And most minimum wage earners are women. The fact is that minimum and lower wage workers in our state don’t earn enough to support a family. The annual income for a full-time employee making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is $15,080. Living below the poverty line, these families have little or no hope of providing for a better life for their children. Jobs should lift workers out of poverty, not trap them in poverty.
Passing this bill to raise employee wages would increase purchasing power, create more jobs and boost the New Hampshire economy. More than four out of five economists say the benefits of increasing the minimum wage would outweigh the costs. Further, a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found raising the minimum wage would create jobs while causing no reduction in the availability of minimum wage jobs.
Raising the minimum wage is crucial to our future economic growth. Five of the six fastest growing sectors of the American economy are in low wage industries – home health aides; customer service representatives; food preparation and serving workers; personal care assistants and retail salespersons. To rebuild a strong middle class and create an economy of shared prosperity, we must pay fair wages in these growing sectors.
HB 1403 was heard by the House Labor Committee. The bill can be found here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/legislation/2014/HB1403.html
About the Raise the Wage New Hampshire Coalition: The Raise the Wage coalition includes organizational members American Friends Service Committee, America Votes, Economic Justice Mission Group of the United Church of Christ-NH, Every Child Matters, Granite State Progress, Housing Action NH, Interfaith Voices for Humane Public Policy, National Education Association-New Hampshire, New Hampshire AFL-CIO, New Hampshire Child Advocacy Network, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, New Hampshire Kids Count, New Hampshire Legal Assistance, New Hampshire Women’s Initiative, State Employee’s Association of New Hampshire – SEIU Local 1984, and Women’s Fund of NH, in addition to elected officials, community advocates, and small business leaders.
Citation: UNH Survey Center, Granite State Poll, Winter 2014