Citizens offer pros, cons as minimum wage hike is debated

DOVER — For more than two hours Thursday, 25 speakers waited their turns to push for and against raising Delaware’s minimum working wage.

With each testimony from a podium in the main Senate chamber at Legislative Hall, it was clear the issue is a life changer for both sides of the amendment to Senate Bill 39 that earlier raised wages by a dollar an hour between June 1, 2014, and June 1, 2015.

While business owners and representatives were staunchly against the current $8.75 hourly pay rising incrementally to $15.05 by 2023, other folks testified to the struggles of working for what they called low pay before Labor and Industrial Relations committee members.

According to business owners, raising minimum pay would increase the salary scale for other workers within a company and further threaten already thin margins, raise prices of goods, cause layoffs or reduced hours, increase automation with fewer workers needed, lessen competitive ability with other states, and perhaps force complete shutdown, among other concerns.

Private citizens and some nonprofit representatives stressed a belief that the lowest of wages make it difficult, if not impossible to pay basic bills, raise families properly, limit the return of disposable income to the state through spending, and work within the law to make ends meet.

A previously incarcerated Wilmington man said the continued current pay could take him back to streets and surviving off crime to take care of his family, which was echoed by other speakers.

The Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce and members of the farming industry offered the most feedback, expressing a strong stance against raising the minimum wage further.

Listening to the testimonies as committee members, State Sens. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West, and Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, offered support for the bill’s amendment, while Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, took the opposite view.

At the end of the gathering, Sen. Marshall thanked all for contributing to the conversation, and said all views would be considered as he shops the bill around to legislators in a quest for more support.

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