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President's Proposed Minimum Wage Hike Mulled On East End

Reported: Jan. 28, 2014 10:00 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 29, 2014 1:25 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) – In the President’s address, he urged Congress to pass a plan to increase the overall minimum wage. The push comes after the President announced Tuesday morning, that he would sign an executive order to raise the federal minimum to $10.10, which would only apply to workers under Federal contracts. It could help build support in states, for an all-encompassing plan.

We spoke with people on both sides of the wage debate, those who earn it and those who pay it.

You may recall in his 2013 State Of The Union Address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. $10.10 is better than $9.00, it’s just a question of where those extra costs will be absorbed.

"It's hard work and to ask somebody to do that for $7.25 is not a judgement call I'm gonna make," said Keeley Steele, who co-owns the Bluegrass Kitchen with her husband on Charleston’s East End. She told us, $7.25 is a good starting point, to see if new hires make the cut.

"The restaurant business is a transient business at best, so it's important that I know that the people I hire are going to do the job that I give them," said Steele, who added, she looks at candidate’s pay history and previous experience. "And I'm willing to sit down with any employee after a few months, to renegotiate and I'm happy to pay people to stay!"

Steele and her husband own three East End eateries. She said the cost of food keeps going up, so why not wages too?

"I've been waiting tables for a long time. Usually 2.13 an hour, I guess, is enough to get by if I'm not living too extravagantly, yeah," said Joel Eary, who waits tables there for $2.13 an hour, plus tips. "I personally don't think raising the minimum wage is a good idea, because it just inflates everything else."

Costs may be absorbed in menu prices or worse, in staff cuts. Raising the minimum wage may not phase bigger chains, but it could force mom and pop operations to re-examine their bottom line. Still, Eary said there is always job security in waiting tables.

"People are always going to go out to eat,” he smile. “People like to get waited on."

According to the website, www.minimum-wage.org 13 states have already raised their minimum wage so far this year. We’ll have to see what happens here in West Virginia, but the White House said, the hike in minimum pay for Federal contract workers would most benefit janitors and construction workers, working under new Federal contracts, as well as military base workers, who wash dishes, serve food and do laundry.



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