Minimum wage gets major boost - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Minimum wage gets major boost

June 5, 2007

Albany--  Could you live on less than $11,000 a year? That's what people who make minimum wage survive on.  That's about to change. For the first time in nearly a decade, the minimum wage will increase.

It was nearly ten years ago that the minimum wage went from $4.75 an hour to $5.15. Many say another increase is long overdue. But while employees celebrate the news, their employers worry about the future.

It's service with a smile. "Here's your order baby girl!," says Starling Williams through his drive-through window.

That's the kind of service business owner Starling Williams has been cooking up for years.

"It's been a bit slow, but guess what? I'm still here!," said Williams.

Here in Albany, he enjoys having his own place to serve customers. Running a business isn't always easy though. "It's been a roller coaster. It's been up and down," said Williams.

Because of the downs, most of the time you'll find him here alone. However, during the busy hours, he needs help. So he depends on six employees who right now get the standard $5.15 an hour.  Even that amount is tough for Williams.

"At $5.15 an hour, you have to run a very tight schedule," said Williams.

So how about $7.25 an hour for those employees?

"When it goes up to $7.25, more control, control, control," said Williams. It's out of Williams' control but it means a substantial increase for minimum wage workers across the United States . Here's a look at the difference.

Right now, a person who works 40 hours per week at $5.15 an hour takes home about $10,700 a year. At $7.25, that amount will jump to over $15,000.

"Which I feel like an employee deserves that," said Williams.

But that means Williams will have to dish out even more with the same amount of business. His employees work about 3 hours a day.  That's a little over $15. Compare that to 3 hours at $21.75 times 6 employees. That will most likely mean something else will go up as well.

"What it all boils down to, the makeup will have to come from the menu. There's no other way to get it," said Williams. While he gets the reason for the increase, he worries about all small businesses.

"It's going to hurt a lot of small businesses which could possibly include me," said Williams. 

He still hopes for the best. "I hope so because this is my joy. This is my life," said Williams.

For now, he'll continue joking with customers he calls family. That's something that won't change even as the dollars do.

Some relief to business owners will be how the increase is phased in. Workers will see their first increase of 70-cents by the end of the summer. Another 70-cents will be added next year. The full wage of $7.25 will be in effect by summer 2009.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that more than 5-million workers make less than $7.25 an hour.  That's 4 percent of America's workforce.

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