Raising minimum wage could help and hurt

FILE - In this June 15, 2015, file photo, demonstrators rally for a $15 minimum wage before a meeting of the state Wage Board in New York. The New York state Wage Board is expected to recommend a higher minimum wage for the industry during a meeting Wednesday, July 22, 2015, in New York City. Board members say they support an increase, though they haven’t offered a specific amount. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(SAVANNAH) Labor Day in the Hostess City did no include any protests about raising minimum wages, but there is no shortage of opinions on the issue. Nationally, the “Fight for $15” drew thousands of people to gatherings in hundreds of cities in the U.S., to push Congress to nearly double the minimum wage. In Savannah, workers like Samuel Williams say it’s needed. “You can’t make a living off of minimum-wage, with the price of living it’s impossible to make a living off of minimum-wage. You know you have kids, they need things you have your necessities, your responsibilities you have your rainy days who’s gonna live on minimum wage? Who’s going to do that? No one.” Williams said, adding what he has to do to get his income above the bottom of the pay-scale. “I’ve made minimum-wage, you know, it’s, it’s not cool. Like right now I’m doing Uber and lift and you know, that’s the move right now, you know raise it to $15 and you know, I think that’ll make it better for everybody.” said Williams.

Some say raising the minimum wage will lower some people’s dependence on government assistance in the Peach State. Savannah resident Doris Ezell believe it will reduce the number of people who need help from the government. “It would benefit all of us and it would probably help a lot with people getting food stamps and welfare, WIC, and different things. If you raised up what we are making then will be able more to provide for ourselves and everything and we won’t have to depend on the state of Georgia.” Ezell said.

But there is no denying the double-edged sword of of nearly doubling minimum wage according to Jennifer Kossman of Savannah. “It’s a good thing for people, but then it’s going to hurt small businesses as well who can’t pay the $15 an hour.” Kossman said, adding that she believes raising the minimum wage will hurt another segment of the workforce. “The people who are already making $15, because they have a degree, it’s going to hurt them because they’re not going to get anything else.” Kossman said.

There are a lot of senior citizens watching the “Fight for $15”, like Ezell, who says those jobs help them make ends meet. “I’m applying for minimum-wage, yes, yes sir because Social Security is not enough.” Ezell said. Supplementing income in retirement is not the issue facing new college graduates, who face mountains of education debt while barely earning enough to live. Elaine Gregory of Savannah says he son is facing that situation right now. My son is in college and, and it’s rough. I don’t know how he’s going to make it, he’s got like $80,000 in student loans, he’s an IT Major. How’s $7.25 going to do anything for anyone? It’s hard to pay bills, to eat, to be healthy.”” Gregory said. Kossman believes if people push too far, big business will push back by tapping into technology to take over entry level positions. “They’re going to start finding machines that can do their jobs for them.” Kossman said. Right now, there is no word from Washington when Congress is expected to take up the debate to raise the federal minimum wage.

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