GA minimum wage stagnant, other states offer increases - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

GA minimum wage stagnant, other states offer increases

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January 2, 2007

Albany-  The new year brought minimum wage workers in seven states a raise above the federal minimum of $5.15. Some of those increased minimum wages will go as high as $7.50 an hour, but no change for minimum wage workers in Georgia.

The federal government raised the minimum wage to $5.15 in 1997 and Georgia followed. Over the past decade, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says the minimum wage has lost 20 percent of its value because of increased costs. Workers say it's made it hard to make ends meet.

It's been ten years since Georgia's minimum wage workers have seen a raise. The state's minimum wage reflects the federal minimum of $5.15 an hour. Shauntay Kendrick considers herself lucky to make a little more than the minimum, but knows how hard it is for others who don't.

"I have nine siblings that work for a living and like for instance my sister and her and her husband both work full time jobs and it's hard raising a family and paying bills with minimum wage being so low," said Shauntay Kendrick, Hourly employee.

For a 40 hour per week employee that $5.15 an hour averages out to $10, 712 a year. Some say that's not good enough for families who face rising housing, health care, grocery and gas bills.

"It has come to a point though where that people in the past that were making minimum wage could pretty much kind of sort of make it, but now it's getting to a point where it's impossible for them to make it at that point, it's an idea who's time certainly has come," said Rep. Winfred Dukes, (D) Albany.

Despite seven other state's actions to recently increase their minimum wage, Georgia's legislature may not be as quick to act. Some say it's a federal issue.

"In Georgia, our economy is going at a pretty steady rate a lot of people believe that the increase in wages helps offset the potential inflation and so I think we'll tread this one extremely lightly in Georgia," said Rep. Ed Rynders, (R) Albany, Lee.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says an increase in the minimum wage would directly affect 210,000  workers. Shauntay feels it might help her too.

"Like for me, I don't make minimum wage, I make above minimum wage but, I think if it was raised then my employers would be forced to have to give me a raise anyway," said Kendrick.

The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute recommends the state raise the minimum wage to $7.25.  Fourteen other states have a minimum wage of $5.15.

Interestingly, Kansas has the lowest state minimum wage at just $2.65.

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