Raising the Minimum Wage

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Updated: Tue, 10 Jun 2014 08:45:10 CST

A bill that would have raised Nebraska's minimum wage failed during the last legislative session, but, one group isn't giving up the fight. 

Last week Seattle, Washington made history when they voted to raise their minimum wage to 15 dollars. That's the highest in the nation.

 "I think that Seattle's really going to find that they'll have to lay off people and then they're really going to have a mess."

One local group is fighting for a pay raise here at home. The group Better Wages Nebraska is attempting to collect 83 thousand signatures by July 3rd. They want the minimum wage increase to be decided by the voters on the November ballot. Marla Anders owns the Barn, a small business in Hastings that sells home décor.

"You’re talking about mom and pop businesses and they’ve taken such a strike over the last several years anyhow with the failing economy.”

The proposal would gradually raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to 9 dollars an hour over the next two years.

"Nebraska has just historically been a state that is more conservative and it tends to follow the federal guidelines," said Cindy Johnson.

Cindy Johnson President of the Grand Island Chamber of commerce says most Nebraskan businesses are paying their employees well over minimum wage.

"We have a number of companies who just because of our tight unemployment 3.1 percent are looking at hiring individuals at entry level wages at a significantly higher wage than minimum income."

According to statistics from 2013. Food Service employees in the Greater Nebraska area, excluding Omaha and Lincoln, earned a starting wage of 8 dollars and 19 cents, a median wage of $8.82 and experienced employees made $9.98.

Retail employees in the Greater Nebraska area earned a starting wage of $8.62, a median wage of $10.12 and experienced employees made $16.69.

"There’s 3.1% employment companies are hiring in a way that ensures they have employees and that means paying more than $7.25."

Johnson says an increase could ultimately lead to pay inflation. 21 states including Nebraska's neighbors Colorado and Missouri have hiked up their minimum wage.